'Comfort food' doesn't actually exist, study finds

Macaroni and cheese isn't really that comforting, researchers say.

Macaroni and cheese isn't really that comforting, researchers say.  (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

Your favorite food hasn't really got the power to chase the blues away after a bad day, researchers say. A University of Minnesota team took a group of volunteers—most of whom were confident that their favorite "comfort food" could help lift their mood—showed them movie clips known to cause "feelings of anger, fear, anxiety, and/or sadness," and discovered that people given their comfort food of choice didn't cheer up any faster afterward than volunteers given other foods or no food at all, Pacific Standard reports.

The most popular "comfort food" was chocolate. People may give comfort food "credit" for improvements that would have occurred anyway with the passage of time, concluded the researchers, whose study is published by the American Psychological Association.

"We found no justification for people to choose comfort foods when they are distressed," they wrote. "Removing an excuse for eating a high-calorie or high-fat food may help people develop and maintain healthier eating habits, and may lead them to focus on other, food-free methods of improving their mood." (Another recent study found that it is possible to train yourself to like healthy food more than junk food.)

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