Ask Dr. Nandi: Quitting junk food produces similar withdrawal-type symptoms as drug addiction

Posted at 6:44 PM, Sep 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-21 18:48:53-04

Junk food can be absolutely irresistible.  But if you try to cut back on those delicious processed foods, you’ll be up against some nasty withdrawal-like symptoms, similar to what a drug addict would experience. That’s according to a new study that was conducted in our home state.  

Question: How did researchers conclude this?

This study from the University of Michigan is believed to be the first of its kind as previous studies have focused on animals.  What the researchers did was create a self-reporting tool to evaluate how people felt when trying to reduce their junk food intake.  231 adults took part.  And the results showed cutting back lead to irritability, tiredness, sadness and cravings.   These are very similar to what an addict experiences when quitting drugs, tobacco or alcohol.  

Question: How long did the symptoms last for?

Participants reported their symptoms were the most intense between two and five days. After that symptoms tapered off.  Junk food is created with a lots of sugar, fat and salt which delights our taste buds and brains which then makes it hard to resist.   These processed foods are often packed with calories and little to no nutrients, which makes them terrible for your health.  Too much can lead to obesity, increase your diabetes risk, affect your memory, and put you at higher risk for depression, cancer, and heart disease.  

Question: How did the people in this study quit junk food and how did they feel long-term?

Well those are great questions that the researchers didn’t address.  We can assume they may have phased junk food out gradually or quit cold turkey.  Now you know I’m a big believer in eating foods in moderation, but I realize this approach doesn’t work for everyone.  Some people can handle occasional treats while others take one bite and it leads to over-indulging.  So if you want to cut back, you really need to know how you react to sugary foods.  And be prepared if you go cold turkey the first week will likely be very challenging.  

Are sports killing our kids?  Tune in this Sunday at 1 pm for Dr. Nandi’s all-new television show airing on WXYZ. You’ll learn how sports is affecting our children’s health along with other life-inspiring medical health advice.