Is Comfort Food Really Junk Food?

By: Bel Marra Health | Diets | Thursday, October 25, 2012 - 01:47 AM

dietsEarlier studies have shown that the consumption of comfort foods increases the likelihood of positive emotions, and promotes a calming feeling, especially when he or she is experiencing stress or loneliness.  Based on this effect, the actual identity of a comfort food may vary per individual.  To some, comfort food may pertain to a particular sweet food or candy, for many others, it could be something else, even mashed potatoes.

Comfort Food is More Than Just Calories

To an individual who is frequently experiencing anxiety, running to the comfort of a certain food item may also generate results other than receiving a soothing sensation.  Unfortunately, the majority of comfort foods contain high amounts of calories and thus, eating these food items at a high frequency or in large amounts may not be helpful in maintaining a healthy body.  For example, macaroni and cheese and fried chicken are comfort foods that may be considered as diets rich in fats and calories.  Apple pie and ice cream are also food items that generate a calming feeling, yet when included in our daily diets, may pose a problem relating to total intake of calories each day.  There are also certain junk food such as chips, burgers, and hotdogs that are considered comfort foods and contain a high amount of calories.

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Although eating certain comfort food, which is usually equated as junk food, may be helpful in achieving a positive emotional experience in an individual, this activity may not be considered as the significant cause in excessive weight gain and obesity.  According to a recent medical report published in the journal Experimental Diabetes Research, current pharmacological interventions for obesity remain ineffective and thus the most promising approach in controlling weight gain appears to be associated with the control of the brain and the consumption of food items in the daily diets.

How Comfort Foods are Incorporated into Diets

The research report explains that the hypothalamus, which is the tiny region of the brain that controls the endocrine system and metabolic processes of the body, influences how a person feels in the presence of a certain stimulus in the environment.  Eating comfort foods, which may be rich in calories, thus triggers the tuberal region of the hypothalamus to release signals that slow down that heart rate, as well as lower the blood pressure of an anxious individual.  The inclusion of comforting food items in daily diets may also result in the production of dopamine, which may help in decreasing the sensation of pain and anxiety.

The authors of the medical report discussed that the hypothalamus is responsible in the production of various hormones that control the amount of food eaten in regular diets, including the total number of calories consumed each day.  Thus authors showed that digestive hormones such as peptide YY and ghrelin are influenced by the type and amount of food, including junk food,   that are integrated into the daily diets.  In order to control the amount of calories taken in by an individual on a daily basis, it is thus important for every person to understand how the brain controls various activities of the body, including food intake.

Weight Problems and Junk Food

The report explains that weight problems such as obesity are mainly caused by the frequency and amount of food consumed in regular diets.  Certain food items, such as junk food and those rich in sugar and fat, contain high amounts of calories and thus may increase the likelihood of weight gain.  Based on the biochemical processes described in the medical report, eating comfort food that may be rich in sugar or fat may not be the actual culprit in the development of obesity, but the amount and frequency of consumption of these food items in regular diets.  The medical report presents biomedical information in an objective fashion, allowing the reader to understand how the body works and how it responds to different types of diets.


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