Nicotine Withdrawal and Junk Food Intake: A Study

Nicotine Withdrawal and Junk Food Intake: A Study
Nicotine withdrawal symptoms vary and peak after 1-3 days, but psychological effects can persist. Quitting smoking often leads to increased junk food cravings.

According to a report by foreign media on March 27, 2022, it is well known that the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal vary from person to person, with some struggling more than others. However, these symptoms generally peak in the first 1-3 days of quitting smoking and gradually decrease over the course of 3-4 weeks. After this time, nicotine should be completely eliminated from one's system, but psychological effects often continue to persist.


When nicotine enters the bloodstream, it activates the reward and pleasure pathways in the brain by increasing the levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of well-being. It is known to affect areas in the brain that regulate breathing, memory (enhancing it), appetite, and heart rate. The brain quickly becomes addicted to this stimulating effect.


Additionally, smokers often turn to smoking when socializing with friends, feeling bored, or in need of a pick-me-up. Over time, this can cause the brain to associate smoking with pleasure, making it difficult to overcome psychological withdrawal symptoms even after overcoming physical nicotine withdrawal symptoms.


The physical symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.


When the nicotine receptors in the brain are suddenly deprived of nicotine, the release of dopamine decreases. This can naturally lead to an uncomfortable sensation and a strong craving for smoking, as the body has become accustomed to the need for dopamine release. The craving for nicotine can last for 5 to 30 minutes, can be very uncomfortable, and will only subside over time or with the use of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).


A recent study titled "Quitting Smoking Increases Junk Food Intake: The Role of Endogenous Opioid System" has been published in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence. The lead author of the study, Dr. Mustafa al'Absi, is a licensed psychologist and professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Bio-behavioral Health at the University of Minnesota Medical School. His team researched the brain functions responsible for addiction and appetite regulation, specifically examining the potential preference for junk food during nicotine withdrawal.


Researchers studied a group of smoking and non-smoking participants between the ages of 18 and 75. They were randomly assigned to quit using nicotine products for 24 hours and given either a placebo or 50mg of naltrexone. At the end of each session, participants were given snacks with varying calorie levels, salt, sugar, and fat content.


As expected, a research group has found that participants who quit smoking tend to choose foods that are high in calories, salt, fat, and sugar. The study observed the involvement of receptors in the brain's opioid system in this behavior. The study shows that food choices and consumption are influenced by smoking status (abstinence > occasional smokers or non-smokers; p < .05), opioid antagonists (naltrexone < placebo; p < .05), and gender (males > females; p < .05). These effects were confirmed for high-sugar and high-fat foods, but no differences were found in low-sugar and low-fat foods.


Researchers have concluded that the use of food, particularly high-calorie food, is often employed as a coping mechanism for the negative effects and discomfort experienced by individuals during the process of quitting smoking.


(Source: Vaping Post)


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