Addiction and Junk Food

Junk Food and The Brain

According to Beverly Muhlhausler, PhD, junk food has the same effect on the brain as addictive drugs and alcohol. When you eat junk food, it signals the part of the brain known as the mesolimbic reward center. This causes opioids to be produced and released, and the opioids initiate a series of reactions that lead to the production of the dopamine (a feel good hormone.) This reaction creates a pleasurable feeling that’s equivalent to the high experienced from a drug.

Consuming large amounts of junk food for long periods changes your brain chemistry in the same way as addictive drugs and alcohol do. In conclusion, you need to consume larger amounts of junk food to get the same high and you experience withdrawal symptoms when you can’t get it.

Main Offenders

Fat and sugar cross the blood-brain barrier and reach the reward center (dopamine) directly.


Studies support that junk foods do indeed have addictive properties. Eating too much junk food over a long period of time can literally cause us to become addicted. We probably all know people who have withdrawal symptoms when they can’t get access to chocolate or chips—what research shows is that this really is a biological response.


“A Maternal ‘Junk-Food’ Diet Reduces Sensitivity to the Opioid Antagonist Naloxone in Offspring Postweaning.” J.R. Guguseff et al. FASEB Journal, 2013, vol. 27, pp. 1275-84.