COVID Cravings Drive Us To The Fridge In Search Of Comfort Food

The stress from uncertainty and major life changes due to COVID-19 have driven many to find relief through indulging in comfort foods. In a recent CBSN Bay Area interview with Juliette Goodrich, Drs. Elissa Epel and Rachel Radin from the UCSF AME Center provide insight into the science of stress eating and cravings in this new pandemic era. During times of chronic stress, “we’re going to tend to go for the highly rewarding, high comfort foods like those high sugary dessert foods or high fat, high sugar combination foods," shares Dr. Radin.

AME collaborator Jamey Schmidt, a Principle Investigator with Sutter Health CPMC, also shares updates from the Sutter Health healthy beverage study which was developed from the UCSF Healthy Beverage Initiative (HBI) led by Dr. Epel. The HBI study found that eliminating the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages at UCSF campuses and hospitals significantly reduced consumption and the waist circumference of participants.

In the current Sutter Health trial, Schmidt and colleagues recognized that with increased stress levels due to the pandemic, participants are likely to experience changes in their food choices. The research team has now adapted study questions to explore this relationship further. Data analysis will not begin until next year, however, Schmidt recommends an easy strategy to avoid weight gain due to sugary drinks, "think about reducing your intake of sugary beverage one beverage at a time: Swap it out for a zero-calorie drink each day and by the end of the month your COVID-15 is now COVID-14: you would lose a pound."

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