Influence of emotions evoked by life events on food choice
Considering the importance of replicating real-life experiences in studying emotional eating, this study investigated the influence of emotions evoked by life events on food choice in normal-weight and overweight women.
Normal-weight (n = 21) and overweight women (n = 23) aged 25–42 years were assigned to one of two different conditions: in one, they were shown a video with scenes of daily activities to elicit neutral responses; in the other, they were shown a video with scenes of common problems to evoke negative emotions. The participants were then offered a brunch containing sweet, salty, and healthy food items to evaluate their consumption and food choice.
Exposure to negative emotions evoked by life problems increased energy intake in both groups, but they differed in terms of food choice. The normal-weight women increased only the consumption of sweet food (p = 0.044), whereas the overweight women significantly increased ingestion of sweet and salty foods (sweet food p = 0.031; salty food p = 0.008).
The results show that common problems of life might trigger food consumption in the presence of high availability. Both groups increased food consumption after negative emotions and the normal-weight group had a higher increase than the overweight group. However, normal-weight women increased consumption of sweet foods, whereas overweight women consumed more salty, fried, and sweet foods. Healthy food was not chosen under these conditions. This should serve as a warning for the risks of excess exposure to high-sugar or high-fat food as everyday problems will not cease to exist.
Level of evidence
Level II: evidence obtained from well-designed controlled trials without randomization.
KeywordsEmotional eating Negative emotion Eating behavior Food choice Comfort food
The authors wish to thank the women who participated in this study.
Compliance with ethical standards
This study was funded by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) (Protocol 14732-6).
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the national ethics committee and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki. The study was approved by the Committee of Research Ethics of HCFMRP-USP under protocol 210.388.
Informed consent was obtained from all participants included in the study.
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