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Study: Comfort Food Could Worsen Mood

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File photo of chocolate, a common comfort food. (Photo by PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images)

File photo of chocolate, a common comfort food. (Photo by PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images)

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ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) –  Humans are often tempted to consume rich, unhealthy foods when feeling stress, depression or anger, a practice commonly referred to as “eating one’s feelings.”

For many, fattening food options are also easier to obtain, and the consumption of comfort foods such as fast food is common practice in the United States – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, 11.3 percent of the average American diet consisted of fast food between 2007 and 2010.

CDC researchers additionally observed, “As lifestyles become more hectic, fast-food consumption has become a growing part of the American diet.”

But while buying less healthy foods might save time, and consuming them may feel good in the moment, new research suggests that the practice could be emotionally detrimental in the long run.

The study, conducted at Pennsylvania State University, reportedly found that eating poorly not only worsens moods, it also doesn’t do much to alter moods positively before or during meals.

“There was little in the way of mood changes right before the unhealthy eating behaviors,” said Kristin Heron, Ph.D., research associate at the Survey Research Center at PSU was quoted as saying by PsychCentral. “However, negative mood was significantly higher after these behaviors.”

The negative emotions experienced after treats are said to be primarily connected to concerns regarding body image and maintaining a proper diet.

Researchers reportedly collected data for the study by asking 131 women with unhealthy eating habits and self-image concerns – but who did not exhibit signs of an eating disorder – to travel with handheld computers that prompted the participants several times daily to answer questions about dietary choices and mood at a given time.

Study co-author Joshua Smyth, professor of biobehavioral health, was quoted as saying by PyschCentral, “This study is unique because it evaluates moods and eating behaviors as they occur in people’s daily lives, which can provide a more accurate picture of the relationship between emotions and eating.”

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