Junk food may lower stress: research – ABC Online

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Junk food may lower stress: research
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It seems there might be a biological reason why people crave junk food.
New Australian research has found that eating foods high in fat and sugar reduces anxiety levels. But while it might make you feel calmer, that does not mean it is good for you.
Our increasing reliance on junk food is one of the reasons behind Australia's growing waistlines.
But it seems there might be a scientific reason why people turn to high fat and high sugar foods when they are stressed.
Researchers at the University of New South Wales gave young rats who had been taken away from their mothers a diet of either junk food or healthy food.
Professor Margaret Morris from the University of New South Wales says they noticed a difference in the animals' behaviour.
"What we found was that the animals that had the junk diet were much less anxious than those that who ate the junk food, so what we think is that animals are using junk food to relax themselves," she said.
Animals given the low fat diet had double the stress levels of the junk food eaters.
And while it might seem quite a leap from mice to humans, researchers say brain pathways controlling appetite are similar in both species.
"People do use food in this way as a kind of a medication to soothe themselves," Professor Morris said.
Overseas studies have shown that people who like junk food tend to choose sweet foods and chocolate when stressed.
"Individuals who enjoy eating certain types of food will seek out that type of food for comfort eating following an unpleasant or stressful experience, and that's a remarkable finding," Professor Andrew Lawrence from the Howard Florey Institute said.
The findings might also explain why many people fail when they go on diets.
Researchers will now look at whether exercise can be as good as junk food at relieving stress.
We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the lands where we live, learn, and work.
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