Highly processed foods like packaged cookies and potato chips can be addictive — and that designation can support policies that improve Americans' health and even save lives, researchers argue in a new paper in the journal Addiction.

While some past research has supported the controversial concept of food addiction, the study authors are the first to claim such addictions are possible using the scientific standards set for tobacco products.

Labeling certain foods as addictive, the researchers say, can better hold manufacturers accountable and improve treatments for people who feel powerless against foods like doughnuts and french fries.

"In tobacco, understanding these products were not just 'habit forming,' but truly addictive, motivated public health approaches that included the addition of warning labels, restricting of advertising to children, and economic incentives to avoid tobacco products," lead author Ashley Gearhardt told Insider.

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