If you’ve ever felt cranky or suffered headaches after giving up junk food, a new study says you may have experienced withdrawal, LiveScience reports.
Published in the journal Appetite, a new paper concluded that people who cut back on eating highly processed snacks, like chips and cookies, experienced physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms similar to those who quit smoking cigarettes or weed – think mood swings, cravings, anxiety, headaches, and bad sleep.Researchers found that symptoms were most intense between two and five days after reducing junk food.
For the study, the team asked 200 people who followed a diet within the past year to complete a questionnaire assessing withdrawal symptoms. Known as the Highly Processed Food Withdrawal Scale, the assessment was adapted from current tests used to measure drug withdrawal.
Lead study author Erica Schulte, a psychology doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan, told LiveScience this is the first study indicating that people can experience withdrawal from food. Further, this study indicates that highly processed foods, which typically contain excessive amounts of sugar, can be addictive.
However, there are some flaws with the study. Participants were asked to recall their symptoms, so there is a possibility that not everyone remembered withdrawal symptoms accurately. Plus, the study didn’t study the intensity of withdrawal or whether people gave up specific foods entirely or just cut back on the quantity consumed.
Still, the study authors believe this is a good starting point for future studies looking at food addiction. And it can help dieters anticipate the unpleasant side effects that may come with giving up their favorite snacks.
Of course, dieting is never easy. But trading soda for water, meal prepping and getting physical activity in every day have helped real people ditch extra weight.