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DR. MICHAEL MOSLEY: You could be a secret food addict without even realizing it. Take this quiz to find out

You don’t smoke, don’t drink excessively and certainly don’t use drugs – but could you be ‘addicted’ and not even know it? In fact, many of us may have addictions and not recognize the signals from certain foods, for example your cell phone, exercise, work – or even danger.

The definition of ‘addiction’ means that you have no control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it can harm you. And it’s surprisingly common, especially if you have an addictive personality – which I do.

My addiction is to chocolate, something I know is bad for my waistline and my risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and yet I still eat it whenever I get the chance.

These seemingly less harmful addictions are caused by similar biochemical changes in our brains as drinking, gambling and smoking – one of the most common and harmful addictions of all.

Previously this was limited to cigarette smoking, but there is increasing evidence that children are becoming addicted to the ‘healthier’ version, namely vaping.

My addiction is to chocolate, which I know is bad for my waistline and my risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and yet I still eat it when I get the chance, says Michael Mosley

A study last year showed that daily consumption of snacks high in fat and sugar rewires the brain so we seek out more of these foods

A study last year showed that daily consumption of snacks high in fat and sugar rewires the brain so we seek out more of these foods

The number of children using vapes has tripled in recent years, with some as young as 11 years old. That’s why I was happy to hear that the government is finally going to tackle this disgusting habit by banning the sale of disposable vapes and punishing the shops. which they sell to underage users.

The problem with vaping is not only that you ingest a lungful of strange chemicals, but that the nicotine you inhale is terribly addictive. Or at least it is that way for some people. A few years ago I made a documentary where I tried heavy vaping (inhaling the nicotine equivalent of about 20 cigarettes per day) for a few weeks.

I had never smoked before, so I was a little worried that I would become addicted.

But nothing like that. At no point during vaping did I crave another ‘hit’ – and after a few weeks I was happy to be allowed to quit, which I did without any difficulty.

And that, at least in my mind, raised the question of why some people seem to become addicted almost immediately – whether to drugs, alcohol, cigarettes or gambling – while others can give up with relative ease.

Numerous studies have shown that addiction is due to a combination of genes, family background, personality traits and social background. But the underlying mechanism behind our addictions seems to be the big, pleasurable dopamine hit we get after performing a certain addictive activity.

Dopamine is a chemical messenger that plays a role in exercise, but also in our feelings of pleasure, among other things.

A recent study of more than a million people, published in the journal Nature Mental Health, found that the genes that cause us to become addicted are mainly linked to the release of dopamine in the brain.

But for reasons we don’t fully understand, different things seem to cause different addictions in different people. This could include working out (I know people who cancel everything before canceling the gym); work (yes, some people get a dopamine rush from this!); or even danger (I knew a parachutist who took increasing risks ‘for the rush’, until he died in a fatal crash).

I’m not a heavy drinker, I don’t crave nicotine and despite using magic mushrooms (back when it was legal) I’ve never felt the desire to use illegal drugs.

Yet, I have some personality traits that are normally associated with someone prone to addictive behavior.

I am obsessive (when I get focused on something, I find it difficult to change direction); impulsive (I often do things without thinking about it); and I’m a reward seeker: I seek out things that I know will give me a dopamine rush – even if I know they’re bad for my health, like chocolate.

Some people claim that food cannot be addictive, but I don’t think that’s true. There is even a measure, known as the Yale Food Addiction scale, developed at Yale University in 2009, which has shown that certain foods – high in fat and carbohydrates, such as chocolate, chips and cookies – can trigger addictive behavior in some people. . A study last year in the journal Cell showed that daily consumption of snacks high in fat and sugar rewires the brain so we seek out more of these foods.

The Yale Food Addiction Scale contains 25 questions, but try this shorter quiz to assess how addicted you are to a particular food. More than three “yes” answers and you could be in trouble.

1. When I start eating these foods, I can’t stop and end up eating way more than I intended.

2. I continue to eat these foods even when I am no longer hungry.

3. I eat to the point where I feel physically ill.

4. I find myself craving these foods when I’m stressed.

5. If it’s not in the house, I get in the car and drive to the nearest store that sells it.

6. I use these foods to make myself feel better.

7. I hide this food so that even those close to me don’t know how much of it I eat.

8. Eating it causes anxiety and feelings of self-loathing and guilt.

9. Even though I no longer enjoy eating it, I continue to do it.

10. I tried to give up this food, but it didn’t work.

Recognizing that you have a problem is the first step in doing something about it.

I know I can’t have chocolate (or cookies) in the house because I will always seek them out.

When I get hungry, I take them out instead of going to the store.

If you have a serious addiction, see your doctor or contact an organization that specializes in addiction. You can also get help by calling the Samaritans.

New cancer therapy can also fight aging

The news that King Charles has cancer came as a nasty shock. In fact, one in two of us will develop cancer someday, but the good news is… . . most will recover.

There have been huge advances in the way cancer can be diagnosed and treated, but immunotherapy – where we use our own immune system to attack and destroy cancer – is perhaps the most exciting.

One of the most promising forms of immunotherapy is CAR T-cell therapy, which involves taking T cells (a type of white blood cell that destroys invading microbes) from a patient and modifying them to target and eliminate cancer cells. It is mainly used for advanced, otherwise untreatable forms of blood cancer, such as lymphoma. It is also being tested for lung, liver and prostate cancer.

But now there is even talk of using CAR T cell therapy to extend healthy life. Here, modified T cells are used to combat one of the underlying causes of aging, ‘senescent’ cells.

When you live in a house for a long time, you tend to accumulate a lot of clutter.

The same goes for our bodies: over the years they accumulate more and more old (or outdated) cells, which cause long-term damage by causing chronic inflammation.

Now, researchers at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in the US have shown that CAR T-cell therapy can be used to target and destroy these senescent cells, with impressive results.

In the study, mice given a single dose of their own modified T cells at a young age stayed slimmer and led healthier lives: the therapy improved their metabolism and made them more active, protecting them against type 2 diabetes and obesity.

So could modified T cells be a potential source of youth, as well as powerful cancer fighters? Fingers crossed.

How handwriting improves memory

Earlier this week I came across an old suitcase in our attic full of letters from friends and family from many years ago. It brought back fond memories – but also made me think about the fact that I hardly ever write anything by hand anymore.

Could this affect my ability to remember things? In a recent study in the journal Frontiers In Psychology, students were asked to write or type a series of words while their brain activity was measured.

When they were writing, there was a greater increase in electrical activity in the brain – the kind of activity that other studies show leads to better memory and learning.

The researchers suggest this is because handwriting requires fine motor control and forces you to pay attention to what you are doing. Typing, once you get used to it, is largely automatic.