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The Top 20 Most Addictive Foods, According to Study

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We all have late-night cravings we're not proud of, but it's not entirely our fault; the most addictive foods seem to jack directly into the reward centers of our brains, some by direct design. Now a team of researchers from the University of Michigan have created a list of the most addictive foods. Unsurprisingly, pizza reigned supreme.

The two-part study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, involved surveying 120 undergraduate students in one experiment, and conducting a questionnaire among 384 participants in the other. Participants in the first study, all between the ages of 18 and 23, were first shown the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS), a "measure that has been developed to identify those who are most likely to be exhibiting markers of substance dependence with the consumption of high fat/high sugar foods." The scale is based on standard criteria for substance dependence. 

The participants were then presented with food picture pairings and asked to choose which of the two they were "more likely to experience 'problems' with, as described by the YFAS." (Of the group, 75 percent were Caucasian, and about 68 percent were female.) Among the problems they could report were eating more of a food than they intended to, being unable to quit a food, giving up important activities, or showing an increased "tolerance" for a food.   

The research showed that of the 35 food options, those that have been processed and contain more fat and a higher glycemic load are most frequently associated with addictive-like eating behaviors. 

For the second study, instead of choosing between two food pictures, the participants, aged 18 to 64 (about 59 percent male and 77 percent Caucasian), were asked to rate each of the 35 foods on a Likert scale from one to seven, with seven being "extremely problematic."

"It is plausible that like drugs of abuse," reads the conclusion of the study, "these highly processed foods may be more likely to trigger addictive-like biological and behavioral responses due to their unnaturally high levels of reward."

The results varied slightly between the two parts of the study, but pizza, chocolate, cookies, and ice cream placed in the top five on both lists. Here are the items that made the Top 20 from the second study's ranking (which the researchers found to be a "more representative, diverse sample"), in order of most to least addictive: 

1. Pizza
2. Chocolate
3. Chips
4. Cookies
5. Ice Cream
6. French Fries
7. Cheeseburger
8. Non-Diet Soda
9. Cake
10. Cheese
11. Bacon
12. Fried Chicken
13. Rolls
14. Buttered Popcorn
15. Cereal
16. Gummies
17. Steak
18. Muffins
19. Nuts
20. Eggs

Want to know how the other 15 food items placed? You can digest the full list here

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Animals
Fisherman Catches Rare Blue Lobster, Donates It to Science
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FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

Live lobsters caught off the New England coast are typically brown, olive-green, or gray—which is why one New Hampshire fisherman was stunned when he snagged a blue one in mid-July.

As The Independent reports, Greg Ward, from Rye, New Hampshire, discovered the unusual lobster while examining his catch near the New Hampshire-Maine border. Ward initially thought the pale crustacean was an albino lobster, which some experts estimate to be a one-in-100-million discovery. However, a closer inspection revealed that the lobster's hard shell was blue and cream.

"This one was not all the way white and not all the way blue," Ward told The Portsmouth Herald. "I've never seen anything like it."

While not as rare as an albino lobster, blue lobsters are still a famously elusive catch: It's said that the odds of their occurrence are an estimated one in two million, although nobody knows the exact numbers.

Instead of eating the blue lobster, Ward decided to donate it to the Seacoast Science Center in Rye. There, it will be studied and displayed in a lobster tank with other unusually colored critters, including a second blue lobster, a bright orange lobster, and a calico-spotted lobster.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Animals
Australian Scientists Discover First New Species of Sunfish in 125 Years
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Courtesy Murdoch University

Scientists have pinpointed a whole new species of the largest bony fish in the world, the massive sunfish, as we learned from Smithsonian magazine. It's the first new species of sunfish proposed in more than 125 years.

As the researchers report in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, the genetic differences between the newly named hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) and its other sunfish brethren was confirmed by data on 27 different samples of the species collected over the course of three years. Since sunfish are so massive—the biggest can weigh as much as 5000 pounds—they pose a challenge to preserve and store, even for museums with large research collections. Lead author Marianne Nyegaard of Murdoch University in Australia traveled thousands of miles to find and collected genetic data on sunfish stranded on beaches. At one point, she was asked if she would be bringing her own crane to collect one.

Nyegaard also went back through scientific literature dating back to the 1500s, sorting through descriptions of sea monsters and mermen to see if any of the documentation sounded like observations of the hoodwinker. "We retraced the steps of early naturalists and taxonomists to understand how such a large fish could have evaded discovery all this time," she said in a press statement. "Overall, we felt science had been repeatedly tricked by this cheeky species, which is why we named it the 'hoodwinker.'"

Japanese researchers first detected genetic differences between previously known sunfish and a new, unknown species 10 years ago, and this confirms the existence of a whole different type from species like the Mola mola or Mola ramsayi.

Mola tecta looks a little different from other sunfish, with a more slender body. As it grows, it doesn't develop the protruding snout or bumps that other sunfish exhibit. Similarly to the others, though, it can reach a length of 8 feet or more. 

Based on the stomach contents of some of the specimens studied, the hoodwinker likely feeds on salps, a jellyfish-like creature that it probably chomps on (yes, sunfish have teeth) during deep dives. The species has been found near New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and southern Chile.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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