In an article published in the Journal of Health Psychology researchers examine how viewing and drawing pictures of high caloric foods increase mood in those with clinical depression.


In recent years, the correlation between depression and obesity has increased. The consumption of high-caloric foods, deemed “comfort foods,” has been used as a method to cope with depression, which can promote weight gain. Researchers conducted a study to explore whether looking at and drawing pictures of high-caloric foods can result in an increase in mood. The hope is that this may be a method to boost mood and does not require the consumption of these items, thus preventing weight gain.

60 university students from New York were recruited for the study. The study was divided into two portions.

The first portion of the study required participants to look at food images. Four different slideshows were presented based on food calorie content [ie. high fat-high sugar (ie. desserts), high fat-low sugar (ie. fried foods), low fat-high sugar (ie. fruit), and low sugar-low fat (ie. vegetables)]. Participants were asked to rate their mood and hunger levels both before and after study trials.

The second part of the study required participants to draw food items to which they were assigned [high fat-high sugar (ie. cupcake), high fat-low sugar (ie. pizza), low fat-high sugar (ie. strawberry), or low sugar-low fat (ie. pepper)]. Participants were asked to rate their mood and hunger levels both before and after completing their drawing.

The results of the study indicate that looking at/drawing images of high fat and high sugar foods (ie. cupcake, fried foods), aka “comfort foods,” can enhance mood without increasing hunger levels. The boost in mood was observed especially in those with clinical depression. This was not observed for low fat-low sugar vegetables. These findings are consistent with previous neurobiological research that suggests a connection to the reward system of the brain in both obesity and depression.

As obesity becomes of increasing concern for those suffering from clinical depression, the results of this study may provide a method of intervention that can boost mood while encouraging curbing  the consumption of unhealthy “comfort foods.”




Written By: Nicole Pinto, HBSc

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