The Science Behind Comfort Food

by Zoë Pollock

Anneli Rufus delves in:

Psychologists call comfort food a "social surrogate" — in other words, not quite replacing real companions but reminding us of them. Participants in yet another recent study felt less lonely after writing about—and not even necessarily eating—comfort foods. The psychologists who designed that study theorized correctly that consuming comfort foods soothes us in the exact same ways as wearing our favorite clothes or watching our favorite TV shows.

Jennifer Gibson recounts the findings of a more recent study where participants "received an infusion of either saline or fatty acids directly into the stomach":

Traditionally, the sensations, such as sights and smells and tastes, were believed to induce emotional changes associated with food — a mind-to-body connection. But, this research proves that the link may be bidirectional, involving a body-to-mind influence, too. The participants did not know what type of infusion they received, yet they still experienced the emotional effects of comfort food.  Emotions may influence food choices, but food also influences emotions.