So-called ‘gateway’ snacks might trigger addiction to unhealthy foods

So-called ‘gateway’ snacks might trigger addiction to unhealthy foods

Most people have heard the argument about gateway drugs. This is the idea that a less-dangerous drug will eventually lead users to hardcore, dangerous addictions to an illegal substance.

Marijuana is often cited as a gateway drug, some saying it can lead users to cocaine or heroin.

Addiction, however, comes in many forms. And one of those is junk food. Scientists have coined a new term — gateway food.

Here’s how it works. So-called gateway snacks and other bad calories might lead adolescents to an addiction to unhealthy, ultra-processed foods extending into adulthood. And that can set them on the road to obesity and a shorter life.

A study presented to the American Heart Association found that study participants who feasted on frozen desserts upped their consumption of all other processed foods by 11%. Pastries demonstrated the same relationship. But candy really stood apart.

It was associated with a 31% hike in the consumption of other unhealthy foods. The study described these treats and other sugary items as gateway foods that lead these teens to scarf down foods that are just as unhealthy.

Similar correlations were found with processed meats and white bread. The report notes that those who decreased their intake of packaged cookies didn’t eat as many processed foods. So it’s a two-way street.

More than 300 teenagers, ages 13 to 19, were recruited for the study and quizzed about their eating habits.

The experts say it’s just more evidence of the importance of establishing healthy eating habits early in life. But eating well is a lesson for people of any age.

Remember, when it comes to that chocolate bar or donut — just say no.

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