Ice cream, chocolate, mac ‘n’ cheese not really comfort foods, study finds

Ice cream, chocolate and other "comfort foods" don't actually offer any comfort, study finds.
Ice cream, chocolate and other “comfort foods” don’t actually offer any comfort, study finds.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Whether it’s a bowl of mac ‘n’ cheese or a carton of ice cream, everyone has a comfort food they reach for when they’re feeling down. But is your calorie-laden indulgence really making you feel any better?

According to a new study by researchers at the University of Minnesota, comfort foods don’t really offer any comfort.

So there’s no real reason to eat the entire carton of Rocky Road?

“Negative moods naturally dissipate over time,” reported researchers in the study, published by the American Psychological Association. “Individuals may be giving comfort food ‘credit’ for mood effects that would have occurred even in the absence of the comfort food.”


Researchers asked 100 students which foods make them feel better when they’re in a bad mood, as well as other foods they enjoy. The participants were then placed in groups and asked to watch 18-minute videos meant to cause “feelings of anger, fear, anxiety and/or sadness.”

The students were shown the videos during two sessions, scheduled at least one week apart. During one session, the students were given some of their comfort foods, then asked to fill out a questionnaire about their moods.

At the other session, students were given a portion of another food they said they enjoy. Then they filled out the mood questionnaire. Researchers found regardless of which foods were consumed, the students’ moods improved over time, even though 81% of participants said they were confident eating the comfort food would make them feel better.

Researchers also found that chocolate was the most popular comfort food among participants, followed by ice cream and cookies.

I still think chocolate makes me happy. Follow me on Twitter @Jenn_Harris_