Empty Carbs

A New Study Says Comfort Food Doesn’t Actually Make You Feel Better

That feeling is just your stomach growling.
That feeling is just your stomach growling. Photo: Shutterstock

A team of University of Minnesota psychologists say that their test designed to demonstrate comfort food’s simple, high-carb “psychological benefits” yielded some relatively earth-shattering results: There probably are none. Researchers apparently screened some sad movies and then had viewers scarf down their favorite comfort food or a different food and report mood changes. The results, admits professor Traci Mann, one of the study’s authors, were so logic-defying that they “kept repeating the study, because we didn’t believe it.” A subsequent test changed the parameters to giving half the group comfort food and the other half literally nothing — both ended up feeling “equally better.”

Now, once your world re-rights itself but before you go trashing that dog-eared copy of Chicken Soup for the Red Sox Fan’s Soul, it’s worth noting the study only tested food’s effect on people after watching a tearjerker, so nothing here yet challenges the truth that gravy makes good days better. It’s also devoid of another important factor — the food’s context, like smells wafting from Grandma’s kitchen, the family bumping elbows at the Thanksgiving dinner table, etc. While Mann notes “[p]eople are taking this very hard,” she also adds that research into comfort-food psychology in general is all pretty nascent. And for those still ready to abandon stress-eating a chocolate bar now and again, she offers this advice: “So you lose one justification for eating a cookie. Come up with another one.”

[Health Psychology, The Salt/NPR]

A New Study Says Comfort Food Doesn’t Actually Make You Feel Better