Northern Health Dietitian challenges new study on junk food withdrawal symptoms
The Chief Population Health Dietitian at Northern Health isn’t totally convinced a new study where quitting junk food will have the same withdrawal symptoms as quitting hard drugs is totally accurate.
Flo Sheppard believes the sample size is too thin.
“I would say that there is some contention at this point around whether we want to categorize food as addictive and when we look at the research we are basing this story on it’s a small study of about 230 people so I think the jury is still out if we want to be talking about food as addictive.”
“We do know that food is manufactured, things like ultra-processed foods are ultra palatable or highly tasty and any changes that we would recommend should be slow and gradual not because of withdrawal but because of wanting people to make sustainable changes.”
Researchers from the said study found symptoms tapered off within a week, the same time frame as withdrawal symptoms for drug addiction.
Sheppard says food choices are made for a variety of reasons whether it’s to make an impact on our health but northern BC residents also choose food for pleasure, which is considered appropriate.
“People choose food for the opportunity for social connection to continue and celebrate culturally and family traditions and we also need to be mindful of is that people make choices for food that are based on whether they can afford food.”
One of the theories Sheppard subscribes to is restriction creates a sense of deprivation and changes the relationship with food. If a resident chooses not to eat something it can actually elevate the feelings of that food and makes it more difficult.