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Stress and comfort food consumption, a cause-effect relationship



on behalf of Agro FOOD Industry Hi Tech (TKS Publisher)


Stress in humans can be defined as the result of a strained interaction between two or more people and a hostile environment which threatens their well-being. The relationship between the stimulus (stressor) and a the way humans respond to it has been broadly investigated, especially when it comes to how stress can affect one’s relationship with food. Though the correlation has been convincingly demonstrated, the tendency seems to be to consider the consumption of comfort food as a cure for stress, rather than an effect of it.

In the Western World, few words are more used (or better, misused) than the term ‘stress’. The basic definition of stress is: “a state of real or perceived threat to homeostasis”. When applied to humans, however, researchers are still struggling to find an unambiguous definition, let alone describing its effects. This happens mainly because the term is often used to describe the behaviour patterns, so stress is mainly seen as a menace on a psychological level, rather than something affecting the physiological one. This is especially true with food: the sensorial satisfaction it can provide is the main factor to be highlighted when discussing anti-stress qualities. So, while the stress-reducing effects of food are often described and advertised in the simpler, more superficial terms of satisfaction, gratification and a general feeling of well-being, the chemical and biochemical interactions between nutrients and our organism are kept in the background. This can lead to a dangerous misunderstanding with consumers, who can somehow be led to confuse the stress-reducing effect of food with the trickier “comfort food” concept.


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