Comfort Food Makes Bad Mood Worse

We eat comfort food to improve our mood. So how annoying is it that a new study suggests that if you eat junk food or binge when you’re feeling down, you might just end up feeling worse?

That’s the results of a study presented today by a team of Penn State University researchers at the American Psychosomatic Society conference in Miami. The team asked 131 college-age women to carry handheld computers, which would alert them at intervals throughout the day to respond to questions about how they felt and what they were eating.

“We were interested in studying women in their everyday lives to see whether mood changed before or after they engaged in unhealthy eating and weight control behaviors,” said Kristin Heron, a research associate.

Unexpectedly, the women didn’t report experiencing much in the way of mood changes before they binged. A good mood wasn’t changed by eating badly. However, if they were already in a bad mood, then they felt even worse afterwards.

In other words, comfort food doesn’t comfort you at all. Eek.

Although a lot of the so-called evidence is anecdotal, scientists already know that eating healthy food can have an impact on your mood. For example, the omega-3 oils in fish like salmon can help fight depression.

However, I think most of us had also believed that less healthy choices, most famously chocolate, also can cheer you up. Alas, a disappointing 2007 study said that, yes, chocolate does make you feel better — but for only three minutes.

Worse than being ineffective to lift your mood, some food might actually work in your body to make you feel worse. For instance, Dr. Jennifer Landa, writing for Fox News, said that those delicious potato chips are fried in omega-6 fatty acids — which blocks your body’s ability to process healthy omega-3 fats that would actually make you feel happier.

Is there a food you can rely on to lift your mood?

[photo courtesy Bruno Girin and flickr]