Why are some people more likely to reach for that bar of chocolate than others during times of anxiety? A new study featured on Science Daily says that it may have something to do with early infancy stress.

Researchers led by Tania Machado worked with litters of mice in a laboratory setting. One group was given reduced nesting material to represent early-life stress, while another was provided with standard care. Once the mice reached adulthood, scientists observed the rodents’ stress reaction and behavioral anxiety. They also measured the subjects’ consumption of comfort food for four days.

The results showed that mice that faced early-life stress had increased adult anxiety and produced more of the stress hormone corticosterone, causing them to turn more to comfort food. Comfort food acted as a medication to lessen or alleviate symptoms of anxiety.

Although turning to munchies during stressful times is okay once in a while, bingeing may contribute to obesity. The best way to avoid overeating is to find alternatives that could help reduce stress, such as sports, traveling, or writing. Indulging on occasion may help lighten your mood, but food is just a temporary salve and not a solution.

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(Photo by Wager Cesar Munhoz via Flickr Creative Commons)

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