Study suggests stressing about tough times unleashes craving for calories.

Tough economic times can lead people to eat much more than they regularly would, a recent review finds.

So, to eliminate calories, tune out bad news, the review author suggests. Study participants who were given various messages about tough times ate almost 40 percent more food than those who were given neutral messages. The specialists also found that messages about tough times led people to desire more high-calorie foods.

In one test, participants were told that they were taking part in a taste test for another kind of M&M’s candy. They were told one bowl had M&M’s with high-calorie chocolate while the other bowl had M&M’s with low-calorie chocolate. In fact, there was no difference in the candies.

Before doing the taste trial, the participants were shown posters that contained either impartial sentences or sentences about struggle and adversity. The individuals who saw the struggle and adversity posters ate about 70 percent more of the “high-calorie” candy than the “low-calorie” option, while those who saw the neutral posters ate around the same amounts of both types of candy.

The review, released online in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the journal Psychological Science, received no funding from private industry.

“It is clear from the reviews that taste was not what caused the reactions, it was a longing for calories,” study author Juliano Laran, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Miami School of Business Administration, said in a journal news release.

“These findings could have positive implications for people in the healthcare field, government campaigns on nutrition, and organizations promoting wellness. And, certainly beware of savvy food advertisers bearing bad news,” he included.

“The findings of this review come at a time when our country is slowly recovering from the onslaught of negative presidential campaign ads chalked with topics such as the weak economy, gun violence, war, deep political divides, just to name a few problem areas,” Laran noted.

“Since we know this kind of messaging causes people to seek out more calories out of a survival instinct, it would be wise for those looking to kick off a healthier new year to tune out news for a while,” he recommended.

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