A great number of people instinctually reach for the ice cream or chocolate during times of stress, and this phenomenon has been widely attributed to the sweet tooth. However, a recent study has shown that there is more to it.
Fatty foods do grant the consumer a degree of comfort, but not only because they are pleasurable to eat. The digestive system actually sends signals to the brain while digesting these foods, according to research conducted by scientists at the University of Leuven in Belgium.
Published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, the study used MRI scans to map the effects of fatty acids on emotions when they are injected directly into the stomach.
12 volunteers were exposed to sad music and images before receiving fluid through a feeding tube. Some received a dose of fatty acids, and others; a saline solution.
The participants then rated their moods, without discovering which substance they had digested.
Those given fatty acids proved to be 50% less sad than those who received the saline solution, despite the sad atmosphere.
Lukas van Oudenhove, the scientist who led the research, said “Eating fat seems to make us less vulnerable to sad emotions, even if we don’t know we’re eating fat. We bypassed sensory stimulation by infusing fatty acids directly into the stomach, without the subjects knowing whether they were getting fat or saline.”
The study may have an impact on the studies of obesity, eating disorders and depression.