Despite what I know and say about the health effects of junk food, there are certain foods that once I start, I just can’t stop – namely chips, chocolate and biscuits.

If there is a packet of biscuits in the house, I will mock the lot by not eating just one or two.

And as for the milk chocolate, well, there was a time when I broke off a whole bar and threw it in the bin to stop eating it – only to find myself minutes later.

A particularly low point was eating my then six-year-old daughter’s Easter egg. She is now 23 years old but she still hasn’t forgiven.

The idea that food can be ‘addicted’ has been controversial – including that food doesn’t change brain function in the same way that alcohol or drugs do.

But a team led by the University of Michigan recently argued in the journal Addiction that highly processed sugary foods such as ice cream, chocolate, donuts and biscuits should be considered just as addictive as tobacco.

And just like cigarettes, certain foods trigger cravings and cravings to the point where you binge, even though this increases your risk of life-threatening conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

The idea that food can be 'addictive' has been controversial, including that food does not alter brain function in the same way that alcohol or drugs do.

The idea that food can be ‘addictive’ has been controversial – including that food doesn’t change brain function in the same way that alcohol or drugs do.

The researchers suggest that highly processed foods can cause similar changes to the brain as nicotine.

This is what happened to a friend of mine, Dr. Chris Van Tuleken, when he ate 80 percent highly processed food for a month for a BBC documentary.

His diet includes foods like cocoa-flavored breakfast cereal, chicken nuggets, and microwaveable sausage.

No wonder he probably gained 6.5kg (over a stone) but he craved junk food too much.

And scans showed that eating all that junk in that short period of time literally rewired his brain—there were many new neural pathways, many of which connect the reward centers and the cerebellum, the area that controls automatic behaviors.

It seems that he has changed again with his new diet to eat these unhealthy foods on autopilot. Which is good news if you’re a food producer, but not such good news for the rest of us.

If you accept that some foods are addictive, then what are the worst?

In the year In 2015, in another study conducted by the University of Michigan, 120 students were asked to fill out the Yale Food Addiction Scale (a measure of how addictive they find a particular food) and to rate each of 35 foods on how addictive they are.

No wonder, chocolate, ice cream, fries, pizza, crackers, crackers, cake, buttered popcorn and cheeseburgers top the list of ‘most addictive foods’.

Somewhere in the middle was cheese, bacon and nuts, and at the bottom was salmon, brown rice, cucumber and broccoli.

So what do addictive foods have in common?

Well, first they’re designed to digest quickly and give your brain a quick burst of dopamine (a brain chemical associated with reward). They are also a mixture of fat and carbohydrates.

And it’s not an old mix. Broadly speaking, chocolate or bars, cake or cheeseburger, all contain approximately 1g of fat to 2g of carbohydrates.

It’s a ratio that we humans find especially unbearable.

Chocolate topped the list of 'most addictive foods', followed by ice cream, fries, pizza, crackers (file photo), crackers, cake, buttered popcorn and cheeseburgers.

Chocolate topped the list of ‘most addictive foods’, followed by ice cream, fries, pizza, crackers (file photo), crackers, cake, buttered popcorn and cheeseburgers.

To see if you’re ‘addicted’ to a particular food, try my adapted question from the Yale Food Addiction Scale (right).

So what can you do if you’re addicted to sugary treats?

The first thing is to make sure that you do not put anything in the house, otherwise you will crack and eat it.

Next, look for options that can satisfy your needs, at least partially; I find that switching from milk chocolate to dark chocolate helps a bit because I still get chocolate hits but the sugar is less and that makes it less intense.

I find that eating an apple or pear can sometimes satisfy a sweet tooth.

Another trick I use is to ‘navigate the urge’, which helps the urge go away. Exploring the urge means instead of trying to fight it, I try to focus on drinking a large glass of water, practicing deep breathing, and other things. It usually takes about 30 minutes before I am back in control.

Seek support from family and friends. I’m lucky that my wife Clare doesn’t have a sweet tooth, so if we’re given a box of chocolates as a gift, she’ll either give it away or take out the chocolates in smaller quantities.

Finally, when I’m sleepy I crave sugary carbs.

In a study published in the journal “Sleep” earlier this year, nearly 100 teenagers were asked to reduce their sleep to 6.5 hours a day for a week. During that week, they ate far more sugary and carb-rich foods than normal, perhaps unconsciously seeking a quick burst of energy to keep them going.

So, once again, the message is to make sure you get enough sleep.

Are you addicted to certain foods?

Answer the following questions. More than three ‘yes’ answers and you could be in trouble.

1. When I started eating this food, I couldn’t stop eating it more than I thought I would.

2. I will continue to eat this food even when I am not hungry.

3. I find myself reaching for this food when I’m stressed.

4. If it is not in the house, I go to the nearest store.

5. I hide this food so even those closest to me don’t know how much I eat.

6. Eating creates anxiety and feelings of self-loathing and guilt.

7. Even though I don’t get much pleasure from eating, I continue to do so.

8. I tried to give up this food but I failed.

Listening to bird sounds can boost your mood

As it gets colder, wetter, and darker, I make a special effort to go out for a walk in the morning. Tari cheers as I walk to the front door, helping us have a dog.

Walking, especially in green spaces, is good for mental and physical health.

In Japan, where I’ve been filming recently, they have the concept of ‘shinrin-yoku’ or forest bathing – spending time in the woods and forests, taking in the sights, sounds and smells to reduce stress.

Where I live, there are many beautiful red kites (pictured) circling the sky with their distinctive mowing calls.

Where I live, there are many beautiful red kites (pictured) circling the sky with their distinctive mowing calls.

You also get the benefit of inhaling phytoncides, essential oils that trees produce, which boost our immune system.

Another benefit is seeing and hearing birds.

Where I live, many beautiful red kites flutter in the sky, with their unique maung calls.

It breaks my heart to see them, and I don’t think I’m alone. More than 1,200 people participated in a recent study on the effects of birds on mental health.

Using an app designed by researchers at King’s College London, the volunteers were asked whether they could see or hear birds and answered questions about their mental well-being.

The study shows that bird life can affect our mood, especially in people with depression.

Another great reason to hit the watering holes and explore the great outdoors.

Nits are a perennial problem.

Our children are grown and out of the house, and I miss seeing them.

What I don’t miss are the little friends they used to bring back from elementary school. I am talking about head lice.

In a recent study by archaeologists in Israel, it was revealed that these immortal lines were written on an ivory comb 3,000 years ago and said, ‘This tooth pulls out the lice of the hair and beard.’

The oldest sentence written in the world’s initials has been found to be an instruction on how to get rid of head lice.

The world's oldest sentence written in initials has been found to be an instruction on how to get rid of head lice (file photo)

The world’s oldest sentence written in initials has been found to be an instruction on how to get rid of head lice (file photo)

Archaeologists know the comb was used for this purpose because of the presence of nits between the teeth.

There are many specific remedies to get rid of head lice, but according to a study by researchers at Ghent University Hospital in Belgium, a simple conditioner, a comb and patience are your best tools.

If you’re worried that robots will one day take over the world, you may find that highly advanced artificial intelligence (AI) systems sometimes need a nap.

We humans need sleep to strengthen our memories – but a new type of AI called spiking neural networks, which closely resembles how the human brain works, needs rest if we want to learn and remember what we’ve learned.

Pictured: UBTech Robotics Inc.  Walker Robot to Play Chinese Chess at 2021 World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai

Pictured: UBTech Robotics Inc. Walker Robot to Play Chinese Chess at 2021 World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai

Researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the US have found that if you don’t get the equivalent of ‘good sleep’, you tend to be restless.

The researchers confirmed their suspicions that the same thing will happen to Android and other AI machines in the future.

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