Is The Food You Eat Making You Emotional? Maybe, Says Study, Plus 3 Other Things That Might Be Making You Sad

A cook prepares french fries from a fryer in the kitchen at Bolt Burgers in Washington, DC, February 25, 2014. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

We've all turned to comfort food when we're feeling down, but a new study suggests that certain foods might actually make us more emotional in the first place. Thanks, scientists, for potentially killing my vibe. If you guys have a better way to make me feel better than copious amounts of mac n' cheese or Ben and Jerry's, I'm all ears. 

The study, published earlier this month in the Journal of Health Psychology, sought to find out if there was a relationship between eating certain foods — in this case, foods that are high in trans fat — and people's emotional state. Researchers surveyed 1699 men and 3293 women and asked them about their eating habits, and specifically looked at their trans fat consumption. They also analyzed two factors regarding their emotions: their affect (positive, negative, or neutral), and their emotional regulation, which was their ability to recognize, pinpoint, and regulate their own feelings. 

After crunching all the numbers, researchers found out that participants who consumed more trans fat were less emotionally aware and had a harder time controlling their emotions. On top of that, they were more likely to have a negative affect. So in other words, people who ate a lot of trans fat were more likely to be Debbie Downers who had trouble keeping their feelings in check, and on top of that they were more out of touch with their emotions.

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If you're prone to emotional outbursts (no shame in the game; I too am a cryer), you might be reading this and vowing to avoid trans fat like the plague. But you might want to slow your roll. For one thing, the study only showed a correlation between eating a lot of trans fat and being sad. It didn't necessarily prove that consuming foods that are high in trans fat makes you sad, and not  other way around — that sad people seek out foods with lots of trans fat. It's kind of like a "which came first, the chicken or the egg" kind of thing: from this study alone, we just don't know which variable causes which (or if there is another outside variable that's causing the relationship). 

Furthermore, even though low trans fatty acid consumption was associated with improved emotion regulation and positive affect, that doesn't mean that cutting out trans fat would improve your mood (I am not a scientist, but I can imagine that would take a more controlled study to conclude). 

So what's the takeaway? Basically, eating foods that are high in trans fat might be making you emotional. But they might not. Obviously, it's your own personal choice, but you could try limiting your trans fat intake and seeing if your mood improves.

If you've been feeling down in the dumps lately, here are a few other possible culprits, other than trans fat:

1. Sleep deprivation

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True life: when I don't get enough sleep, I am literally a baby (as in, I could start bawling because I left my string cheese at home. Yes, that actually happened once). In other words, I have zero emotional control when I am running on fumes. And it's not just me! Inadequate sleep has been proven to worsen your mood. It can cause stress, irritability, and worsen depression. In case you needed another reason to get more Z's, how about "not bawling in the bathroom at work"?

2. Hormones

It might be common knowledge, but that doesn't make it any less true: your hormones seriously mess with your mood. When I turn into a pre-menstrual mess, I try to remind myself that all my feels will probably pass once my hormones chill out. For some women, hormonal birth control can help with feelings of depression, but for others it can actually cause mood swings. So this is definitely one of those things you'd be better off talking to your doctor about.

3. Depression

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If you can't stop crying or feel sad constantly, have lost interest in things you love, and have difficulty dealing with stress, you might be suffering from depression. If you think you might have depression, talk to a doctor.

Images: moviesgif.com; Giphy

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