Two of the most alluring ingredients in the foods we consume are sugar and fat. Yes, we could go down a rabbit hole discussing the right sugars and good fats. But if we are talking about all the sugar and fat we generally like to eat (ice cream, donuts, pizza, hamburgers, etc.) there is no good answer to this dilemma.
The discussion is often framed around two points: our physique and our health. While our minds may indirectly consider that second point, we tend not to give it as much importance as what happens to our physical appearances.
It’s easy to say junk food is bad. So why do we continue to consume it? Evidently because it’s tasty and gives us a feeling of satisfaction. But there is a problem with that; that satisfaction is short-lived and you feel hungry again soon after, and not necessarily for vegetables. You want more junk food and therein lies the vicious circle.
We now know that this type of food releases certain neurotransmitters, in particular dopamine, popularly known as the hormone of happiness. One of its main functions is to activate the reward system, which, as its name suggests, drives us to repeat a behavior because we associate it with pleasure. The more dopamine released, the higher the probability of repeating the pattern, as happens with drugs. The interesting thing is that it is not only released when you consume sugary, fatty foods, but also when you look at it, smell it, or even just think about it, thus increasing the craving.
Studies have compared the level of addiction to certain foods with that of nicotine and alcohol. In all these cases, the aim is to make the person want to consume more and more, playing with the taste and aroma. How do we know which food can generate a greater addiction? We can think of the speed hypothesis: the faster something affects the brain, the more addictive the substance is considered to be.
Now you can understand why it is so difficult to resist these foods. I doubt that we will stop consuming them, but perhaps it’s possible to be more conscious about it and modify certain habits.