- An emotional eater consumes food excessively to calm their emotions and feelings.
- Mindful eating would allow you to eat less and better while reducing your stress level.
Emotional eating is characterized by a tendency to overeat to cope with negative emotions. This coping mechanism can be used to alleviate stress, anger, loneliness or fear.
Emotional eating linked to increased risk of diastolic dysfunction
According to a new study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiologyy, emotional eating would be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disorders. Stress could particularly accentuate this behavior, and therefore promote the appearance of heart damage.
To confirm their hypothesis, the scientists observed data from 1,109 participants in the STANILAS cohort. Parents and adolescents living in Lorraine between 1993 and 1995 were recruited as part of this research. The objective was to observe the association between eating behaviors in healthy volunteers and cardiovascular damage 13 years after the start of the study.
The subjects’ diet was assessed with the Dutch Eating Behavior Questionnaire. To measure cardiovascular damage, scientists observed carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity. According to the results, emotional eating was associated with higher pulse wave velocity and a 38% increased risk of diastolic dysfunction, ie a common heart abnormality that causes heart failure.
Eat mindfully for better heart health
Among the factors contributing to emotional eating, scientists have found that high levels of stress explained 32% of the association between this behavior and diastolic dysfunction. “The reward system may be particularly involved in emotional eating, where eating can reduce anxiety and eating comfort foods can dampen the acute stress response”can we read in the study.
The researchers observed, however, that emotional eaters do not necessarily consume high-calorie products during a period of stress. Foods high in fat and sugar could, however, explain the cardiovascular disorders in these people. “One explanation is that we measured average calorie intake and that emotional eaters may binge when under stress and eat less at other times. This yo-yo pattern may have negative effects on the heart and blood vessels in relation to a stable food intake”said Professor Nicolas Girerd, coordinator of the Clinical Investigation Center (CIC-P) and cardiologist at the University Hospital of Nancy (France), in a press release.
To limit the harmful effects of emotional eating, scientists have recommended implementing mindful eating. To do this, the emotional eater can establish new habits, such as taking their time to eat during meals without being distracted by their telephone or television. “We know that emotional eaters are less aware of hunger and fullness, but mindful eating draws attention to these physical sensations. Physical activity is another way to avoid emotional eating because it relieves stress and is a replacement activity (…) In summary, use the three Ms to get rid of the habit of eating emotionally: move, meditate and eat mindfully”recommended Doctor Sandra Wagner, nutritional epidemiologist at the CIC-P.
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