Ever wondered why comfort foods have such a pleasurable effect on you? It is because of the fat in them. Fatty foods have the power to enhance your mood irrespective of their taste. A new study sheds light on why we reach for fatty foods like burgers and fries when feeling blue and it may have little to do with the pleasure principle. While the association between comfort foods like macaroni and cheese and deep fried foods — often fatty and highly caloric — and mood enhancement has been studied before. But this study shows that fat can still play a role in lifting spirits even when taste, texture, smell and sight are eliminated.
While exposed to sad or neutral music and images, researchers at the same time injected 12 non-obese, healthy subjects with fatty-acid solutions and saline infusions via gastric feeding tubes. When injected with the fat solution, the subjects reported feeling less sad than those who were administered with a saline infusion. Subjects also underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging scans so that researchers could chart their brain activity during the experiments.
The study by the University of Leuven in Belgium, appeared in the Journal of Clinical Investigation last week. “Our results may have important implications for understanding the interplay among emotions, hunger, food intake, and meal-induced sensations in health and disorders such as obesity, eating disorders, functional dyspepsia, and depression,” researchers conclude.
Another study published in the journal Psychological Science in March also showed that comfort foods can fight loneliness and serve as a psychological panacea. Researchers from the University of Buffalo found that people often associate comfort foods with the people closest to them. Meanwhile, to get the comfort without the calories, there are many dish recipes, but the classic favourites remain macaroni and creamy herbed mashed potatoes.