Team McCallum

R&D for Lifetime of Life

Comfort food or sex v stress.

Scientists in the US have been investigating how comfort eating or sex reduces the effects of stress by looking at the brains of rats.

Dr Yvonne M Ulrich-Lai gave some rats access to sweetened water for 2 weeks while controls did not get this ‘comfort’ food. Then the rats were stressed to determine the response pattern within the brain. Rats which got the sweetened water showed less stress response (e.g. heart rate) than the controls. And they explored more in a new environment and interacted more when they met unknown rats.

First, there were technical advances in knowledge, when a part of the brain called the basolateral amygdala was found to be key in the process. If this part was missing, the sugar did not cut the stress response.

More interestingly, the stress reduction of the sugary water was long lasting. Even a week after it was stopped, the stress reduction effects were still working. This finding explains why cutting out comfort eating is so difficult. It’s brain-training, remodelling the system to cut stress.

A further key finding was that saccharin also cut stress, although with less effect than sugar. And sweetener dumped directly into the rats’ stomachs did not cut stress, which means actually tasting the sweetener is important. So it’s not simply about calories.

Finally, rats gives access to sexually-receptive partners showed the same amount of reduction of stress as those on the sugar-sweetened water.

So sweet foods cut stress on a par with sex, by remodelling the brain in a manner that is long lasting.

Next time you enjoy a can of sugar sweetened drink, think of it not as enjoyment, but as stress reduction. Or as a long-lasting rewiring of your brain.


November 14, 2010 - Posted by | Brain, Diet, Health, Soft drinks, Stress, Success, Sugar


  1. Comfort food or sex v stress. « Team McCallum…

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

    Trackback by World Spinner | November 14, 2010 | Reply

  2. Eating & Having Sex Gives Long Term Anxiety Relief…

    I found your entry interesting thus I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

    Trackback by JOSH - Jeremy Oscar Somerville Hindle | November 16, 2010 | Reply

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