Can You Get Withdrawal Symptoms from Quitting Junk Food?

While you all have definitely heard of, and some may have personally experienced or seen someone go through withdrawal symptoms from alcohol and nicotine, how many of you are familiar with withdrawal symptoms caused by quitting junk food?

Junk Food Withdrawal Symptoms

Yes, it is an actual condition according to a recent study that says, “Junk food withdrawal can be real.” A doctoral candidate from the University of Michigan headed this research that studied the impact of quitting the intake of highly processed products like fast food and packaged goodies like chips.

Following a scale called the Highly Processed Food Withdrawal Scale, 200 individuals who had been following specific diets for at least one year were asked certain questions. These questions were derived from tests used to check for drug withdrawal symptoms.

The participants had to answer these questions based on their memories of the experience and the questions did not possibly address the severity of the symptoms and whether the symptoms were caused by quitting junk food cold turkey or by slowly cutting down the intake.

Based on the concept that processed foods, especially those high in sugar content, can be very addictive, the answers were analyzed to assess the extent of their withdrawal symptoms.

It was found that people who gave up on processed foods went through “physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms,” which were very similar to symptoms shown by people who quit smoking either cigarettes or marijuana.

From mood swings to disturbed sleep and headaches, these individuals experienced it all, especially within two to five days of stopping these foods. This pattern is very similar to the withdrawal caused by quitting cigarettes where most symptoms intensify in the first few days.

A researcher from the University of Montreal noticed that many people who quit processed food often go back to unhealthy eating habits and even showed signs of depression.

She believes that these symptoms are triggered by the change in the chemical composition in the brain and body, brought on by the modifications in the diet. The change can increase the individual’s “sensitivity to stressful situations, launching a vicious cycle of poor eating.”

While this study is one of the pioneers in this field of studying withdrawal symptoms caused by quitting junk food, the researchers behind it believe that their research is a “good starting point” to help us understand the physical and psychological impact the foods we eat can have on us.

Dieting, especially giving up certain foods that we have been consuming all our lives, can be extremely difficult and as this study suggests may even cause withdrawal symptoms.

But, you should understand that it is all for the greater good of feeding the body foods that are natural, nutritious and good for you.

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Matthews, M. (2018, October 01). Giving Up Junk Food Could Make You Go Through Withdrawal. Retrieved from

Nierenberg, C. (2018, September 27). Quitting Junk Food May Trigger Withdrawal-Like Symptoms. Retrieved from

Lallanilla, M. (2012, December 17). Quitting Junk Food Is Like Drug Withdrawal, Study Suggests. Retrieved from