Quitting junk food produces similar withdrawal symptoms as drug addiction, says study

Published: September 21, 2018 14:08:43 | Updated: September 22, 2018 17:48:08

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Quitting junk food produces similar withdrawal-type symptoms suffered by addicts when they attempt to quit using drugs, according to a new US study.

The study by the University of Michigan (UM) is believed to the first of its kind to evaluate withdrawal symptoms people incur when they stop devouring highly processed foods, such as pastries, French fries and pizza.

The researchers created the first self-report tool to measure the physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms among people, then asked 231 adults to report what happened when they reduced the amount of highly processed foods they ate in the past year.

The participants reported that sadness, irritability, tiredness and cravings peaked during the initial two to five days after they quit eating junk food, then the negative side effects tapered off, which parallels the time course of drug withdrawal symptoms, the study found.

UM researchers did not focus on the method used to change their eating behaviour, such as participants quitting "cold turkey" or gradually phasing out junk food.

In the next step, the researchers will analyse the behaviour in real time rather than a retrospective approach as in the current findings, reports Xinhua from Chicago.

The findings have been published in the current issue of Appetite.

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