‘Comfort food’ can actually fight loneliness | health and fitness | Hindustan Times
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‘Comfort food’ can actually fight loneliness

A new study has found that ‘comfort foods’ such as mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, meatloaf may be bad for your arteries, but they are good for your heart and emotions. Here's why.

health and fitness Updated: Mar 22, 2011 14:32 IST

A new study has found that ‘comfort foods’ such as mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, meatloaf may be bad for your arteries, but they are good for your heart and emotions.



"For me personally, food has always played a big role in my family," says Jordan Troisi, a graduate student at the University of Buffalo, and lead author on the study.



The study came out of the research program of his co-author Shira Gabriel, which has looked at social surrogates—non-human things that make people feel like they belong.



Junk foodIn one experiment, in an attempt to make participants feel lonely, the researchers had them write for six minutes about a fight with someone close to them. Others were given an emotionally neutral writing assignment. Then, some people in each group wrote about the experience of eating a comfort food and others wrote about eating a new food. Finally, the researchers had participants complete questions about their levels of loneliness.



Writing about a fight with a close person made people feel lonely. But people who were generally secure in their relationships—something that was assessed before the experiment—were able to rescue themselves from loneliness by writing about a comfort food. "We have found that comfort foods are foods which are consistently associated with those close to us," says Troisi. "Thinking about or consuming these foods later then serves as a reminder of those close others."



In another experiment, eating chicken soup in the lab made people think more about relationships, but only if they considered chicken soup to be a comfort food.

The study will appear in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.