Does Stress Alter Food Choice?

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate October 2001

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"Stress and Food Choice: A Laboratory Study" is an experimental study using stress and food as its two variables. It is interesting to see whether or not having stress influences a person's choice of food at mealtime. Based on studies performed before this study, men in a stressed setting ate less than men in the control setting. Stressed women ate more sweet and bland foods, rather than salty ones. This study couldn't prove much, since many participants chose not to eat simply because they were not hungry and dietary restraint.

In this recent study of stress and food choice, (Oliver, Wardle, and Gibson, 1994), sixty-eight healthy, volunteers agreed to take part in a study that was renamed so that the participants would not know exactly what was being tested. The twenty-seven men and forty-one women were asked to refrain from eating anything for four hours before the study. This way, the participants would be hungry and would actually choose what foods they would eat, whether they were stressed or not.

These men and women were placed into either a stressed condition or control condition with a variety of food in the laboratory. The stressed group was told that they were to perform a speech after lunch. The control group was put into a natural setting. They listened to a passage of emotionally neutral text. They were told to relax, while sitting, and were told that they would receive a meal afterwards.

The types of foods that were laid out for the participants represented three different categories: sweet, salty, and bland. In addition to this, the foods were also separated into low- and high-fat groups. A total of thirty-four foods were selected for this experiment (Oliver et al., 1994). When the foods were set before the participants, they were allowed...

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