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Physiol Behav. 2006 Apr 15;87(4):789-93. Epub 2006 Mar 6.

Food selection changes under stress.

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychology, Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ 07043, USA. zellnerd@mail.montclair.edu


Two studies investigate the effect of stress on food choice. Experiment 1 demonstrates experimentally that stress causes changes in food choice away from healthy low fat foods (grapes) to less healthy high fat foods (M&Ms), confirming previous survey research. Experiment 2, a survey study, finds that more females than males report increasing food consumption when stressed. A much larger percentage of those who report increasing their food consumption when stressed (71%) are restrained eaters (i.e., dieters) than are people who undereat or who do not change the amount they eat when stressed (35%). The foods that they report overeating when stressed are foods they normally avoid for weight-loss or health reasons (i.e., highly caloric high fat snack foods). They report eating these foods to feel better. Both studies show that stress not only increases consumption in certain individuals but also shifts their food choice from lower fat to higher fat foods.

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