Meatloaf, mashed potatoes fight loneliness

March 27, 2011 at 2:53 PM
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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.

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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