The relationship between mood, depression, and overeating has been subject to increased scrutiny in recent years, with many scientific studies suggesting a link between negative emotions and an increased intake of unhealthy foods.
However, new findings published in Appetite suggest that it may in fact be positive emotions and moods that have a greater influence on food intakes.
Led by Dr Catharine Evers from Utrecht University in The Netherlands, the new research investigated the role of positive emotions as a trigger for food intake in three small scale studies – finding that positive emotions and good moods evoked increased caloric intake compared to control conditions and caused higher intakes of snack foods than negative emotions.
“Across three studies, both experimental studies and a real life dairy study, findings illustrated that positive emotions in general seem important triggers for food indulgence amongst healthy people with a normal weight,” the team said.
“Positive emotions serve as an important but under-investigated trigger for unhealthy food intake that deserves further scrutiny,” Evers and her team added.
Moods and foods
Evers and her team noted that excessive food intakes have fast become a more serious threat for human health than hunger and shortage of food in many Western societies.
“Consequently, the factors that make people vulnerable to engage in overeating have been extensively investigated and one important factor that has been identified as contributing to overeating is the experience of emotions,” they said.
“Although the relation between emotions and overeating has been thoroughly investigated during the last few decades, the typical emphasis has been on negative emotions rather than positive emotions as important instigators of overeating.”
In the new research, Evers and her team investigated the role of positive emotions as a trigger for food intake is investigated in a sample of healthy participants with a normal weight.
Two laboratory studies were conducted in which positive emotions or no emotions were induced (Study 1) or in addition negative emotions were induced (Study 2) after which unhealthy food intake was assessed by bogus taste tests.
A third study assessed food intake by registering snack intake in a 7-day diary study together with the emotions accompanying each snacking episode, something the authors suggested provided “a more ecologically valid test of our hypothesis.”
The first and second tests showed that, compared against control conditions, a positive mood evoke higher caloric intake.
“Study 2 additionally showed that positive emotions evoked caloric intake to the same extent as negative emotions,” the team revealed.
The team also noted that the third study showed that “real life snack intake occurred more frequently in response to positive than negative emotions.”
Volume 68, 1 September 2013, Pages 1–7, doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2013.04.007
“Good mood food. Positive emotion as a neglected trigger for food intake”
Authors: Catharine Evers, Marieke Adriaanse, Denise T.D. de Ridder, et al