For decades, tobacco companies hooked people on cigarettes by making their products more addictive. Now, a new study suggests that tobacco companies may have used a similar strategy to hook people on processed foods.

In the 1980s, tobacco giants Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds acquired the major food companies Kraft, General Foods and Nabisco, allowing tobacco firms to dominate America’s food supply and reap billions in sales from popular brands such as Oreo cookies, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and Lunchables.

By the 2000s, the tobacco giants spun off their food companies and largely exited the food industry — but not before leaving a lasting legacy on the foods that we eat.

The new research, published in the journal Addiction, focuses on the rise of “hyper-palatable” foods, which contain potent combinations of fat, sodium, sugar and other additives that can drive people to crave and overeat them. The Addiction study found that in the decades when the tobacco giants owned the world’s leading food companies, the foods that they sold were far more likely to be hyper-palatable than similar foods not owned by tobacco companies.

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The findings suggest that tobacco companies engineered processed foods to hit what is known as our “bliss” point and elicit cravings, said Ashley Gearhardt, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan who studies food addiction.

Read the complete article in The Washington Post