Psychologists explained by emotional overeating

Austrian scientists experimentally showed that the increase of appetite in a bad mood is typical for those who are emotionally dependent on food. To do this, they conducted an experiment involving 80 women of different ages, each of which read a short story about a recent unpleasant event, and then were shown images of delicious food. Those women who had the tendency to control food intake, increased appetite in response to emotional stress were not observed, but the EEG results indicated an increased cognitive processing of the stimulus, food, which could mean that there’s a lot not in a bad mood they can, write the scientists in the journal Frontiers in Behavioural Neuroscience.

In the course of evolution of mankind food has stopped play solely the role of physiological regulators, and has also become a fairly common way of pleasure. Of course, this has contributed to the development of agriculture and the entire food service industry: food becoming more affordable and tastier, because of what people have become selective, and consumption of food is essential for life process, have become the object of hedonism (not lost, of course, and their original functions).

Like any other object which brings pleasure from the food, but also can develop dependence, and it is a pretty big problem for the modern consumer. Often this results in a systematic overeating, followed by and other eating disorders (e.g. bulimia).

One of the most common factors influencing the development of overeating is emotional stress. Despite the fact that intuitively, under the influence of the stressor appetite should decrease, for some people everything happens exactly the opposite: the greater the emotional stress they feel, the higher the likelihood that they will eat more than you need. In this case, by systematic overeating also tend to be people who constantly restrict their eating, and in this case the role of emotions is not so obvious: conditional failures can occur regardless of whether the person experienced some kind of emotional stress

To understand this question more decided by scientists from the University of Salzburg under the guidance of Rebecca Snapper (Rebekka Schnepper). Their study involved 80 women aged from 16 to 50 years: the authors said that they chose for their study of women because eating disorders are common among them than among men (no one of the participants was not eating disorders and metabolic disorders, e.g. diabetes).

All participants filled out a survey about their food habits: in particular, scholars interested in whether each of them emotional overeating (“When I’m irritated, I eat more/less”) and a restriction of food (“I try to eat less than/as much as I need or I want”). Then each of them was asked to give details of some recent unpleasant emotional event and based on this made up little story of the eight proposals, which is then used in the experiment.

During the experiment participants first completely read made up stories, and then one sentence was shown on the screen. Immediately after the sentences appeared on the screen or food, or a neutral object (e.g., stapler): their participants had to rate on a scale from 0 to 100 (how an object appears and how pleasant — in the case of food it wants to eat). In order to limit the influence of hunger, all the participants ate before the experiment meals with roughly the same calories as in the experiment, the scientists measured the electroencephalogram, electromyogram and electrocardiogram. For the test conditions, the experiment was repeated, but instead of stories based on real incidents with the participants, the researchers chose neutral stories.

The results of the survey showed that the stories about the events occurred in fact cause the participants more negative emotions than the neutral stories, compared to their status before the start of the experiment (p < 0.001). How delicious the participants seemed to images of food, depended directly on how they (the survey results) was dependent to eat: a high rate of addiction led to the fact that the palatability of the food increased, when the mood was spoiled, and the lower value caused the opposite reaction (p < 0.001).

In that case, instead of the emotional dependence on food in the model considered the desire to limit the power of such dependence was not observed. In other words, the desire to eat delicious food when conditional emotional shock occurred only if the participant was initially very emotionally dependent on food. In addition, these same participants once they are in a bad mood were shown pictures of food, relaxed muscle, the corrugator of the eyebrow scholars argue that this EMG index increased appetite.

The results of the electrocardiogram, in turn, showed no differences among the participants during the experiment. As for the EEG, the analysis indicated an increased (p < 0.001) amplitude of evoked potential P300, which is detected 300 milliseconds after the presentation of the stimulus, those participating, the desire to limit the consumption of food was high.

Scientists, thus, experimentally confirmed that the support in the form of food during emotional stress in fact tend to approach those who are more dependent on food emotionally. Those who restrict their eating, to the “seizure” of stress tend not to — and they, apparently, helps enhanced cognitive processing. This, in turn, explains overeating and them to not have much they can use conditional force of will, random, but independent from stress failures which lead to overeating.

However, it should again be clarified that the study was conducted exclusively on women, so its results can’t carry on gentlemen: this will require additional studies — with the participation of the latter.

To stop overeating can be not so simple: not always conventional a feeling of satiety correlated with the lack of desire to eat more. A couple of years ago, scientists tried to solve this problem radically and has developed sensor that attaches to your stomach and registers the contraction of its walls, sending a signal about the objective saturation in the head brain via the wandering nerve. However, I only tested it on rats — but they managed much to lose weight.

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