It’s official – junk food is as addictive as drugs. And if pizza, hamburgers and chips are your drug of choice, then you could actually experience withdrawal symptoms if you decide to go cold turkey.
New research from the University of Michigan found that those attempting to clean up their diets by ditching the junk can be left with headaches, mood swings and cravings – similar symptoms experienced by those who stop smoking and taking opioids.
“One of the frequent criticisms was that there have not been studies in humans to investigate whether withdrawal, a key feature of addiction, can occur when persons cut down on junk food,” lead author Erica Schulte told Mail Online. “Our group was motivated to develop this measure of assessing withdrawal-type symptoms in the context of junk foods in order to chip away at this gap in the literature.”
A total of 231 people between the ages of 19 and 68 participated in the study. They all had to report what happened when they cut down on junk food, or quit it all together, over the course of a year. Shockingly, nearly 98 per cent of the group experienced feelings of sadness, fatigue, cravings, and increased irritability during that time period, with the most intense symptoms occurring between two and five days after cutting down on junk.
Schulte would like to look into the matter further by tracking symptoms on a daily basis.
“This will provide more insight into which symptoms are most implicated and how their intensity changes over time,” she said.
“It would (also) be useful to examine whether greater experience of withdrawal when cutting down on junk foods is associated with poorer treatment outcomes, (such as) dietary adherence and weight loss.”