Comfort Food to Console Your Stress

Anti-stress food, which is comforting when things don’t go your way, is actually comfort food. “Comfort food,” as called by the Anglo-Saxons, can help pass small disappointments. This is the conclusion of a study conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles (United States) on over 2 thousand women between the ages of 18 and 19.

The study was intended to assess whether comfort foods were able to influence the perception of stress caused by adverse life events and if this “buffering effect” was any different based on the psychological condition of individuals.

Can comfort food help reduce stress?

The participants solved the test by reporting their adverse experiences, their perception of psychological stress and whether they tend to eat more in cases regarding negative emotions. The results showed that the perception of the psychological stress was attenuated in those who drove out anxiety, boredom and sadness with little bit of comfort food rather than in those who, in order to feel better, did not eat. However, comfort food was not at all effective in women suffering from depression.

The study, published in the journal Appetite, did however have various limitations “starting from the fact that the sample is not representative of the larger population and the age group is too limited” says Dr. Manuela Pastore, dietician at Humanitas hospital.

How do comfort foods act?

“The english term “comfort food” refers to foods that give a sense of pleasure to those who consume them, fulfilling an emotional need. They can be food or dishes that recall childhood experiences that were gratifying and enjoyable. Each individual has their own comfort food, but among the various possibilities that stand out include foods that increase good humor: sweet biscuits and cakes, chocolate cakes, ice cream, chocolate. The effect on mood is due to particular substances in the food, especially those containing carbohydrates, which act on the central nervous system through neurotransmitters. Among these, the main ones are serotonin, dopamine and endorphins.”

What are the risks for those who exceedingly resort to food for comfort?

“The gratification and comfort given by food can give positive effects, provided in the context of a healthy, active lifestyle. When comfort food is abused, issues may arise: foods that, by definition, comfort and pull up the morale are high-calorie foods, high in sugar and fat and that when consumed regularly, replace meals and in the absence of regular physical activity, can lead to weight gain. You must make sure that food does not become the only way to escape: the act of consolation can become a compulsive act and the effect would be disastrous. “

“It is wrong to use food as a source of consolation for negative changes in life events because it can trigger a dangerous dependency. The food consumed in excess in response to an emotional condition is a mechanism that is not to be stimulated or is best to be corrected, if present. Consoling at different times with sweets is allowed as long as it does not become a habit,” concludes Dr. Pastore.  


Humanitas is a highly specialized Hospital, Research and Teaching Center. Built around centers for the prevention and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular, neurological and orthopedic disease – together with an Ophthalmic Center and a Fertility Center – Humanitas also operates a highly specialised Emergency Department.