Happy Comfort Food

Functional magnetic resonance imaging identifies fatty acids impact

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) What do you do when you’re in the dumps? Some turn to buckets of ice cream for comfort. It just seems to take all troubles away. Maybe it really does!

A recent study may have found why comfort foods are so comforting. The fattier your comfort foods are, the less sad you feel.

"Fatty foods might lift your spirits."

Researcher, Lukas Van Oudenhove from Translational Research Centre for Gastrointestinal Disorders, University of Leuven in the Department of Gastrointestinal Sciences, and team found a relationship between emotional states and gut-brain sensations.

More specifically, they found that fatty acids in the gut send signals to the brain to weaken or lessen sad feelings.

The study included 12 healthy weight individuals who were injected with either saline or a fatty acid solution. Participants were asked to listen and look at cues that would induce a sad emotional state at the behavioral and brain level. The behavioral level was analyzed by measuring hunger, fullness and mood ratings.

The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to determine brain activity at the neural level. The fMRI showed brain activation a few minutes after the fatty acid solution was administered. This finding suggests that a gut hormone is responsible for signaling several areas of the brain during induced sadness. 

The results of this study show emotions, hunger and food intake are all closely related. This might explain and provide treatment or preventative measures for a number of diseases including obesity, eating disorders and depression.

The study is published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 29, 2011
Last Updated:
August 23, 2011