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Mood Influences Eating Behavior

A new report details several studies that tested the link between mood and food. Cornell University researchers observed the food choices of study participants as they watched either an upbeat, funny movie or a sad, depressing one. Individuals were offered hot buttered, salty popcorn and seedless grapes throughout the viewings.

Participants who watched ‘Love Story’ consumed 36 percent more popcorn than those who had watched the upbeat ‘Sweet Home Alabama’.

“Those watching ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ ate popcorn and popped grapes, but they spent much more time popping grapes as they laughed through the movie than they did eating popcorn” reports Brian Wansink, the study author.

Wansink suspects that happy people want to maintain or extend their moods in the short term, but consider the long term and so turn to comfort food with more nutritional value. People feeling sad or depressed, however, just want to “jolt themselves out of the dumps” with a quick indulgent snack that tastes good and gives them an immediate “bump of euphoria.”

To see whether nutritional information influences comfort-food consumption, the researchers offered popcorn to volunteers who completed several assignments, including irrelevant mental tasks, writing descriptions of four things that made them happy (or sad) and reading short stories that were either happy or sad. One group reviewed nutritional information about popcorn, while the other did not.

The researchers found that the sad people with no nutritional information ate twice as much popcorn as those feeling happy. In the groups that reviewed nutritional labels, however, the happy people ate about the same amount, but the sad people dramatically curbed their consumption, eating even less popcorn than the happy people.

“Thus, it appears that happy people are already avoiding consumption, and the presence of nutritional information does not drive their consumption any lower,” said Wansink.

“While each of us may look for a comfort food when we are either sad or happy, we are likely to eat more of it when we are sad,” Wansink concluded.

“Since nutritional information appears to influence how much people eat when they are in sad moods, those eating in a sad mood would serve themselves well by checking the nutritional information of the comfort foods they choose to indulge themselves with.”

Source: Cornell University

Mood Influences Eating Behavior

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Mood Influences Eating Behavior. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 24, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2007/02/05/mood-influences-eating-behavior/597.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
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