Research shows quitting junk food is as hard as quitting an addiction

An article from the Medical Press reports that quitting junk food can result in similar withdrawal symptoms that occur when one quits an addiction, specifically in the first week of quitting.

The University of Michigan recently did a study that is likely the first to examine withdrawal symptoms of people when they refrain from consuming junk food, like processed pastries, fries and pizza.

Other studies have addressed sugar withdrawal in animals, but not junk food withdrawal, so this study from the University of Michigan is causing quite a stir.

Research has determined that the addictive components of tobacco, drugs and/or alcohol impact the brain in similar ways. When a user of any of these things attempts to quit using them, symptoms like anxiety, headaches, irritability and depression can occur.

The University of Michigan wanted to explore whether or not these same withdrawal symptoms would impact someone who gave up processed foods, and after studying 231 adults who significantly reduced their consumption of junk food in the past year, they found that their withdrawal symptoms were comparable to those of someone who quit an addiction. Their symptoms reached a high a couple of days after quitting and diminished soon after, like addiction withdrawal side effects.

Their findings present plausible reasoning as to why diets often fail for people attempting to lose weight, just as relapses often occur in addiction recovery; side effects and withdrawal symptoms can be overwhelmingly powerful and sway a person back into old habits.

My options for junk food are rather limited because of my intolerances, however, I can understand the struggle to completely cut junk foods out of one’s diet. Trying to quit anything that gives you pleasure cold turkey is extremely difficult, and, as research shows, it’s just as hard to give up junk food as it is to give up smoking, drug use or alcohol.

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