Ultra-processed foods may not only affect our bodies, but our brains too.

New research suggests links between ultra-processed foods—such as chips, many cereals and most packaged snacks at the grocery store—and changes in the way we learn, remember and feel. These foods can act like addictive substances, researchers say, and some scientists are proposing a new mental-health condition called “ultra-processed food use disorder.” Diets filled with such foods may raise the risk of mental health and sleep problems

The science is still early and researchers say there is a lot they don’t know. Not all ultra-processed foods are equal, some scientists say, adding that some might be good for you. A diet high in ultra-processed foods has been linked with obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease, but researchers are still figuring out exactly why, beyond calorie counts and nutrient composition.

Makers of foods such as processed meats and muffins defend their products, and note that there isn’t a consistent, universally accepted definition of ultra-processed food.

“The makers of America’s trusted household brands are committed to protecting access to nutritious, affordable, convenient and safe food,” said a spokesperson for the Consumer Brands Association, an industry trade group.

Many ultra-processed foods hit the brain rapidly when we eat them and have a strong effect on its reward system, which is involved in pleasure, motivation and learning.

Those effects are similar to ones when people use nicotine, alcohol and other addictive drugs, said Ashley Gearhardt, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan who is a co-creator of a measure of food addiction.

Read the complete article in The Wall Street Journal