In a study of 43 couples, researchers showed a connection between marital stress and poor food choices. Here’s why your marriage can affect your appetite and your eating patterns.
The Marital Study
Forty-three couples having various BMI’s (healthy weight, overweight, and very overweight) were selected to participate in this study. These couples frequently had hostile exchanges which generally involved certain topics.
The couples agreed to participate for two days (each 9 1/2 hours long). They ate a meal together and tried to resolve one or more conflicts in their marriage. Hormones were tested at four different times of the day — once before the meal and three times after it — at 2, 4, and 7 hours after.
What the Marital Arguments Produced
Researchers at the University of Delaware and Ohio State University College of Medicine observed a strong correlation in healthy weight and overweight subjects, but it was not seen in couples who were heavier (having a BMI of 30 or higher).
They found that hostile marital arguments caused a surge in ghrelin — the “I’m hungry” hormone only in the healthy weight and overweight couples. Known as the appetite increaser, ghrelin is primarily released in the stomach and signals your brain when it’s time to eat.
The appetite hormone, leptin, was also monitored, but levels did not rise. Leptin inhibits hunger, that is, it tells your brain you’ve had enough to eat.
Food to Ease Discomfort
As ghrelin levels rose, distressed partners (both husband and wife) sought food that was typically higher in fat, sugar and/or salt — typically poorer quality food, but what many might consider “comfort food”.
NOTE: Arguments or underlying hostility do not cause hunger or poor food choices, but there is a pretty significant link between the two.