In order to cope with periods of great stress or sadness, many consume sugary junk foods in an attempt to bring themselves pleasure through food. According to a new study, saturated fat may help to curb your desire to eat junk quite significantly. The researchers found that the effect may be a result of your gut sending signals to your brain, which in response releases hormones that aid in the process.
Taste and the pleasant memories associated with junk foods surely play a role, but that may be only part of the story. According to a small new study, hormones in our stomachs appear to communicate directly with our brains, independent of any feelings we have about a particular food.
Most research on food and emotion has looked at the overall experience of eating — the tastes, smells, and textures, in addition to nutrients. In this study, however, the researchers took that subjective experience off the table by “feeding” the volunteers through an unmarked stomach tube.
Even in this artificial environment, saturated fat appeared to fend off negative emotions. The study volunteers were more upbeat after listening to sad music and seeing sad faces if their bellies were full of saturated fat versus a simple saline solution, which suggests that emotional eating operates on a biological as well as psychological level, researchers say.
The study is among the first to show that the effect of food on mood is “really independent of pleasant stimuli,” says Giovanni Cizza, M.D., an obesity and neuroendocrinology researcher at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, in Bethesda, Maryland, who was not involved in the study. “It is even more rooted in our biology.”