Comfort Food: The Science Behind it

By: Katie K. and Anna M.

christmas-dinner-dpThe phrase “Comfort Food” has been broadly defined as any food that a person uses to feel better. Food has been proven to take a social, emotional, and chemical toll on the human condition throughout the years; for example, the theobromine in chocolate has been shown to release dopamine and cause a similar stimulus in the brain, as when having intercourse.

The term comfort food was coined in a 1966 article by the Palm Beach Post examining obesity: “Adults, when under severe emotional stress, turn to what could be called ‘comfort food’—food associated with the security of childhood, like mother’s poached egg or famous chicken soup,” this is something that causes humans happiness, it makes people happy and relaxed and allows them to revert back into a time when things were happy or easy.

People can become quite emotional around the holiday season, a lot of people have seasonal affective disorder or simply just become more solitary and lonely around the holidays. Many people who experience the winter blues are often mentally healthy all year round, except during winter. The fact that we are surrounded by food, and fattening foods at that, does not help those of us who eat for emotional reasons. There is also much less drive to go outside or exercise, due to the drop in temperature.

So we’ve included some explanations on why food is comforting emotionally and physically, but what about socially? When most people are experiencing a socially awkward time in their life, they’ll most likely turn to food. The reason being, food usually tastes better when you’re socially stressed. Appetite, a published journal, reported a study that was conducted by SUNY-Buffalo, where participants were asked to describe a fight that they had with someone close to them. When given potato chips, they rated the snack tastier than the other half of participants who were not asked to describe a fight. With this information we can take away that one of the reasons that we like comfort food so much is because when we’re stressed out, food tastes better.

In conclusion, comfort food is comforting because it either causes people to reminisce or become more emotional or emotionally connected to certain things. It reminds us of a time when things were good, whether it be our favourite childhood meal (Kraft Dinner, of course) or the kind of food we had at our wedding. It reminds us of when something was enjoyable and transports us back to that time, so why wouldn’t we want to have that all of the time?

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