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Meatloaf, mashed potatoes fight loneliness

Meatloaf, mashed potatoes fight loneliness
A nutrition label is seen on a box of macaroni and cheese at the Westside Market in New York on January 11, 2010. The city's health department is calling on food manufacturers to lower the amount of salt used in their foods stating the health risks associated with a diet high in sodium. UPI/Monika Graff | License Photo

BUFFALO, N.Y., March 27 (UPI) -- Mashed potatoes, meatloaf or macaroni and cheese -- comfort food -- may be bad on the waistline, but good for mental health, U.S. psychologists say.

Lead author Jordan Troisi, a graduate student at the University of Buffalo, and co-author Shira Gabriel, say in an experiment to make study participants feel lonely, they had them write for six minutes about a fight with someone close to them. Some were then assigned an emotionally neutral writing assignment, while others were assigned to write about eating a comfort food and others were assigned to write about eating a new food. All participants completed questions about levels of loneliness.

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Those generally secure in their relationships were able to rescue themselves from loneliness by writing about a comfort food.

The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, found comfort foods were consistently associated with those people close to them -- so thinking about or consuming these foods serves as a reminder of those close to them.

"Throughout everyone's daily lives they experience stress, often associated with our connections with others," Troisi says in a statement. "Comfort food can serve as a ready-made, easy resource for remedying a sense of loneliness."

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