If you’ve ever had a moment where you’re feeling down or stressed and reached for some food as comfort, you’re not alone. Emotional eating is something many people experience, though it’s widely accepted as being unhealthy.
It seems there’s now some evidence to support the notion that emotional eating is bad for our health, as a new study published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology showed a link between emotional eating and heart health issues.
In the study, titled “Association between eating behaviour and 13-year cardiovascular damages in the initially healthy STANISLAS cohort,” researchers from the University Hospital of Nancy in France evaluated 1,109 participants over the span of 13 years.
Over the 13 years, researchers recorded any incidence of cardiovascular damage in participants while also tracking emotional eating.
In the end, researchers found that participants who participated in emotional eating had higher chances of having stiffer arteries, a condition linked to a high risk of heart disease and stroke. Participants who practiced emotional eating also showed a 38% increased risk of having a stiffer heart, which is associated with a greater risk of developing heart failure.
In a press release from the European Society of Cardiology, the study’s lead author, Dr. Sandra Wagner, said: “Stress might be one of the reasons for eating in response to feelings instead of hunger. We know that emotional eaters are less aware of hunger and satiety but mindful eating brings attention to these physical sensations.”
While some might speculate that the increased risk for heart problems linked to emotional eating could be tied to an increase in calories, study author professor Nicolas Girerd claims otherwise.
In the press release, she explained: “One explanation is that we measured average calorie intake and emotional eaters may binge when stressed and then eat less at other times. This yo-yo pattern may have negative effects on the heart and blood vessels compared with stable food intake.”
The study concluded with an important takeaway: Efforts to improve cardiovascular health and reduce disease risk should address both eating behaviors and nutritional content.