Put down that pint of ice cream, don’t order that tub of fried chicken, and skip that impulse candy bar purchase at the register. Whatever you eat when feeling sad, it’s not working.
“Individuals may be giving comfort food ‘credit’ for mood effects that would have occurred even in the absence of the comfort food,” concluded a study published in the journal Health Psychology.
“The Myth of Comfort Food” study out of the University of Minnesota found that comfort foods do lead to “significant improvements” in mood — just not any more than other foods, or no food at all.
After filling out a questionnaire about their favorite ways to eat their feelings, study subjects watched sad movies in two separate lab sessions. At the end of one session, they were offered their favorite comfort food; at the other, they were either given a neutral food
or nothing.Researchers then measured any short-term mood changes.
Their conclusion: “Although people believe that comfort foods provide them with mood benefits, comfort foods do not provide comfort beyond that of other foods (or no food).”
Though believing in the effectiveness of a therapy can have a major impact on its outcome, even those participants who believed that self-medicating with food would help were left no better off.
“Harry Potter” fans won’t be surprised to learn that there was one exception to the comfort food myth: Chocolate, whether given to
participants before or after the sad films, made them feel better.