Food and Mood

Feb 13, 2008

People feeling sad tend to eat more of less-healthy comfort foods than when they feel happy, finds a new study co-authored by a Cornell food marketing expert. However, when nutritional information is available, those same sad people curb their hedonistic consumption. But happier people don’t.

In the January issue of the Journal of Marketing, Brian Wansink, the John S. Dyson Professor of Marketing, Applied Economics and Management at Cornell, and two colleagues describe several studies they devised to test the link between mood and food. For example, they recruited 38 administrative assistants to watch either an upbeat, funny movie (“Sweet Home Alabama”) or a sad, depressing one (“Love Story”). Throughout the viewings the participants were offered hot buttered, salty popcorn and seedless grapes.

“After the movies were over and the tears were wiped away, those who had watched ‘Love Story’ had eaten 36% more popcorn than those who had watched the upbeat ‘Sweet Home Alabama,’” said Wansink, author of the recent book “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think” (Bantam Books). “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.”

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 having 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.”

© 2015 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

0 Comments

Trending Articles

How to Teach HIIT to Everyone

High-intensity interval training has been riding a wave of popularity, and it seems everyone wants to give it a try. However, intense interval training is nothing new. Group fitness instructors have b...

Nuts and Peanuts Reduce Cardiovascular Risk and Prolong Lifespan

While there have been numerous studies in recent years touting the health benefits of nuts and peanuts, new research published online March ...

20 IDEA World-Renowned Presenters Share Advice on Success and Happiness

We asked some of this year’s most influential and motivating IDEA World Fitness Convention™ presenters to share the single piece of advice they would give another fitness/health pro to hel...

Mindful Walking

Walking can be more than just moving physically from one location to another. It can be a metaphor for your larger life journey. Things you&...

Smooth Move: Creative Additions to Consider for Smoothies

When looking for a quick breakfast or post-workout nourishment, almost nothing beats a smoothie. Whirl in the right ingredients and the blen...

Yes, You CAN Develop Better Eating Habits

Analogous to laying out your exercise gear so it’s the first visual reminder you have of your commitment to exercise each day, imagine...

Cut Risk of Alzheimer’s with MIND Diet

Conservative adherence to a new diet, appropriately known by the acronym MIND, could significantly lower a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a paper published o...

7 Ways to Help a Client Boost Adherence

Once a client has decided to make nutritional changes to support weight loss, you can play a key role in developing an action plan that is m...

Rice-Cooking Technique Cuts Calorie Absorption in Half

In a molecular gastronomy-meets-lab-science moment, researchers at the College of Chemical Sciences in Colombo, Sri Lanka, have discovered a...

Low Intensity vs. High Intensity: Which Is Best for Obese Adults?

The debate continues regarding the most effective exercise measures for reducing abdominal obesity and improving glucose measures.

Show More