Scientists have discovered that some fattening foods may be as addictive as heroin and cocaine.

Have you struggled with weight loss? Then you probably know that it takes more than willpower to shed pounds. Exercising is an obvious solution since it burns fat, but even workouts can’t contend with the results of one study, which found that overeating alters brain function, increasing the likelihood of addiction.

The similarities between food and drug addictions are striking. High-fat, high-calorie foods overload the pleasure centers in the brain, much like cocaine and heroin. The more we eat these types of foods, the more we crave them to trigger these pleasure centers.

Additionally, just as drug addicts develop tolerance for a certain drug, people who show signs of food addiction develop a tolerance for certain foods. Regardless of being full, they continue to eat even though the food satisfies them less and less. And it’s not just people struggling with weight issues who can become addicted. People who maintain normal weight can also lose control of their eating behaviors.

What foods are addictive?

High-fat, high-calorie foods that are processed and contain excessive amounts of sugar top the list of addictive foods.

Among the findings:

  • Pizza
  • Chocolate
  • Packaged cookies
  • Ice cream
  • French fries
  • Cheeseburgers
  • Regular soda
  • Cake
  • Cheese
  • Bacon
  • Fried chicken
  • Rolls
  • Popcorn

How can you tell if you have a food addiction?

The Yale Food Addiction Scale is a test that doctors use to identify potential food addictions. If you are worried that you might have a problem, take the test or ask yourself the following questions. If you have several “yes” answers, you may want to seek psychological help to control your compulsive eating:

  • Do you eat even when you are full?
  • Do you go out of your way to enjoy certain foods when they aren’t readily available in your home?
  • Do you find yourself finishing off a bag of chips or package of cookies when you intended to only eat a few?
  • Do you have intense cravings?
  • Do you recognize that certain foods are harder than others for you to stop eating?
  • Do you choose to eat rather than spend time with friends and family?
  • Do you avoid activities and events that you once enjoyed because of a fear of overeating?
  • Has your overeating restricted your lifestyle?

What can I do to curb my food addiction?

Like any other addiction, a food addiction requires intense intervention. Discuss your concerns with a doctor, who will likely prescribe a change in diet and counseling with behavioral therapies that can help you get your eating in check.

The primary care physicians at Keck Medicine of USC offer state-of-the-art professional services to patients with nutritional disorders. If you are in the Los Angeles area, be sure to schedule an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visiting

By Heidi Tyline King