Comfort Food and Stress Eating: Hidden Risks for Mental Health and Heart Disease

Do you eat fatty comfort foods such as potato chips and ice cream when you’re stressed? You might want to think twice about that, as a new study shows that eating high-fat foods before stressful events could harm how your endothelial (blood vessel) function. This article examines how eating fatty comfort foods can affect your well-being.

How Does Eating a Fatty Meal During Stress Affect Blood Flow

According to the study authors, stress is known to cause a decline in enthodelial function for 15 to 90 minutes after a stressful event in healthy young adults. Studies also report that people tend to overeat fatty and sugary foods when they are under stress, which can have adverse effects on the blood vessels.

Given these effects, the authors believed that there might be some interplay between the effects of stress and fat consumption that could cause blood flow to be further impaired. To study this possibility, the researchers recruited 21 healthy volunteers split almost evenly between male and female participants. They were given a breakfast consisting of two butter croissants and asked to perform an eight-minute mental stress test.

The research team discovered that eating fatty foods when feeling stressed reduced vascular function by 1.74%. This was in contrast with the 1.18% reduction seen when people ate a low-fat meal during the test.

Why People Are Prone to Eating Fat Foods During Stress

Researchers believe that stress triggers the release of high amounts of cortisol, often known as the “stress hormone.” This hormone is connected to an increased appetite for calorie-dense foods, e.g., fatty foods, refined grains, and processed foods with added sugars.

Foods That Reduce Endothelial Dysfunction

To protect your health and prevent endothelial dysfunction, you must eat more plant-based foods rich in bioactive compounds, such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes. You should also eat foods that boost your endothelial health, such as blueberries and beetroot.


According to a new study, eating fatty comfort foods when you feel stressed out could increase the negative effects of stress on your endothelial dysfunction. People who had a fatty meal before a stressful event also had reduced blood flow in their arms and lower oxygen levels in their prefrontal cortex, possibly due to impaired endothelial function.

However, nutritionists say that plant foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains can reduce endothelial dysfunction.