The Truth About Fatty Food ‘Withdrawals’

By: Dr. Alwyn Wong | Obesity | Tuesday, January 08, 2013 - 11:22 AM

obesityA withdrawal symptom is described as any physical or psychological disturbance a person experiences as a result of being deprived of something. When people are addicted to cigarettes, alcohol or drugs and then suddenly try to quit, they can face difficult withdrawals.  Scientists believe the same thing happens with food.

Eating Fat

North Americans love food…all kinds of food, including fatty foods like hamburgers, onion rings and ice cream. Fatty foods consumed on a regular basis can lead to obesity. This is of course because fat has higher calories. Because of the higher calorie density in fatty foods you consume a larger amount of calories in a smaller amount of food.  Any extra calories that your body doesn’t burn off are stored as body fat. When this happens you become larger, but even more serious; your health is put at risk. A lot has been written about the health implications associated with a diet full of high fat foods. In the years to come we can expect to hear more about withdrawals that come with fatty food consumption as well.

Food Withdrawals

According to a study published by doctors from the University of Montreal’s Faculty of Medicine, ending your fatty food habit could end up causing you withdrawal symptoms and depression. The doctors found that even before obesity takes place, consuming fatty foods leads to chemical changes in the brain similar to what happens when drug withdrawal occurs.

When a team of researchers at the University took mice and fed them a high fat, high sugar diet, they noticed significant changes in their brains compared to mice that had a much healthier diet. The mice that had a higher-fat diet displayed signs of anxiousness, avoided open areas; as well their brains seemed to be physically altered. The researchers also looked at molecules in the brain, including dopamine.

Dopamine enables the brain to reward mice with good feelings thus encouraging them to learn new behaviors. The chemical works the same way in other animals and in humans. Dopamine and the stress hormone, cortiscosterone were at higher levels in the mice that consumed a lot of fatty foods. The study points out that this explains the depression and negative behavior cycle.

The University of Montreal study has received a lot of attention in the medical community and was published in the International Journal of Obesity.

Addiction and Obesity

According to the National Library of Medicine database, in 2011 at least 28 scientific reports on food addiction were published. Brain scans of obese people have revealed disturbances in the brain that are similar to people who are drug abusers. Meanwhile, food company executives argue that nothing has really been definitively proven yet.

No one can dispute that obesity is a growing world-wide problem that needs to be addressed. Moderate obesity reduces life-expectancy by two to four years and severe obesity reduces it by as much as 10. Harvard researchers have said that highly processed foods with sugar and fat in them cause rapid spikes in blood sugar, which increase cravings. Some people just can’t resist those cravings so as a result they are now living with obesity.


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