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High-fat diet can cause cravings and withdrawal symptoms

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Coming down from a food "high" can mimic the symptoms of drug withdrawal, according to a new study.

Scientists gave rats an unlimited amount of high-fat food for six weeks, after which the rats were reintroduced to a healthier diet. The result? The rats experienced classic withdrawal symptoms, like anxiety, cravings and depression.

Food truly can be addictive

The research, conducted at the University of Montreal, supports the idea that certain foods--namely those that are high in fat, sugar and salt--can indeed be addictive.

"What this means from my interpretation is that it's important to prepare oneself for the low that can be experienced from changing the diet and removing palatable high-fat, high-sugar rewards," said Stephanie Fulton, a neuroscientist at the University of Montreal.

After the six weeks during which the rats were on the high-fat diet, they gained 11 percent of their body weight, and they also exhibited sedentary and isolating behaviors, like sitting alone in the dark instead of running through a maze or exploring new areas. The rats, when started back on a healthy diet, also showed strong motivation to "get high" on a sugar solution that was offered to them.

What does this mean for humans?

Researchers note that although the rats didn't become obese after the six-week binge, the short amount of time consuming high-fat foods was enough to change their brain chemistry and cause significant psychological challenges akin to an addict being separated from his drug of choice.

"Even periods of high-fat feeding that don't leave to obesity can produce several important biochemical and behavioral changes that make it hard to give up," Fulton said.

The study is consistent with other similar rodent studies on the effects of food on the brain. Researchers say that people should start thinking twice about how junk food can affect not only their bodies, but their mental health.

"We can try to plan for the low and replace food with other things that give us pleasure, whatever that might be," said Fulton.

Source: Fox News