Are YOU an 'emotional eater'? It might be bad for your heart
Are YOU an emotional eater? It might be bad for your heart, warn scientists
- Scientists from the University Hospital of Nancy, France assessed 1,109 people
- They were followed for 13 years and any cardiovascular damage was recorded
- Analysis revealed emotional eating was linked with stiffer arteries
The saying goes, the heart wants what the heart wants.
And when you’re sad, stressed or heartbroken, it’s all too tempting to cave into temptation and wolf down a large bar of chocolate.
But this could be bad for your heart health in the long run, researchers have warned.
Researchers from the University Hospital of Nancy in France studied 1,109 people over 13 years to assess whether they were emotional eaters. They reported their findings in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology
Scientists studied 1,109 people who were assessed on whether they were emotional eaters – making trips to the cupboard or fridge in response to feelings like sadness or stress instead of hunger.
They were followed for 13 years and any cardiovascular damage was recorded.
This included carotid-femoral pulse-wave velocity – which indicates stiffness in the arteries – and diastolic dysfunction, which indicates stiffness in the heart.
What should a balanced diet look like?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS
- Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count
- Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain
- Thirty grams of fibre a day. This is the same as eating all of the following: Five portions of fruit and vegetables, two whole-wheat cereal biscuits, two thick slices of wholemeal bread and a large baked potato with the skin on
- Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks), choosing lower fat and lower sugar options
- Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including two portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)
- Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts
- Drink six to eight cups/glasses of water a day
- Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide
Stiffer arteries are linked with higher risks of heart disease and stroke, while a still heart means the muscle doesn’t relax enough after contraction, and is associated with a greater likelihood of developing heart failure.
Analysis revealed emotional eating was linked with stiffer arteries and a 38 per cent increased risk of a stiffer heart.
The researchers found that stress levels explained 32 per cent of the association between emotional eating and a stiff heart.
The amount of calories eaten, however, did not appear to have any effect.
The researchers, from the University Hospital of Nancy in France, reported their findings in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
Professor Nicolas Girerd, one of the authors of the study, said: ‘We might expect that emotional eaters would consume high-calorie foods, which in turn would lead to cardiovascular problems, but this was not the case.
‘One explanation is that we measured average calorie intake and emotional eaters may binge when stressed and then eat less at other times.
‘This yo-yo pattern may have negative effects on the heart and blood vessels compared with stable food intake.’
One of the ways to help avoid emotional eating is to try and eat ‘mindfully’, the researchers advised.
‘Emotional eaters consume food to satisfy their brains rather than their stomachs,’ Professor Girerd said.
‘Mindful eating can help break this habit. It means taking time out to eat, either alone or with others, being in the moment and aware of what you are doing, and not being distracted by your phone or the TV.’
Lead author Dr Sandra Wagner said: ‘Stress might be one of the reasons for eating in response to feelings instead of hunger.
‘We know that emotional eaters are less aware of hunger and satiety but mindful eating brings attention to these physical sensations.
‘Physical activity – either a walk or more intense exercise – is another way to avoid emotional eating because it relieves stress and provides a replacement activity.
‘Just 10 minutes a day of meditation or breathing exercises can also help to recentre and reduce stress.
‘To sum up, use the three Ms to kick the habit of emotional eating: move, meditate and mindful eating.’
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