In a study from the University Hospital of Nancy in France, scientists found it’s not just what we eat, but why we eat that’s important for heart health.
They found that emotional eating was linked to heart problems and that stress contributed to this link.
The team says emotional eaters consume food to satisfy their brains rather than their stomachs.
Mindful eating can help break this habit. It means taking time out to eat, either alone or with others, being in the moment and aware of what you are doing, and not being distracted by your phone or the TV.
Previous research found that emotional eaters are less aware of hunger and satiety but mindful eating brings attention to these physical sensations.
Physical activity—either a walk or more intense exercise—is another way to avoid emotional eating because it relieves stress and provides a replacement activity.
Just 10 minutes a day of meditation or breathing exercises can also help to recenter and reduce stress. To sum up, the team suggests the use of the three Ms to kick the habit of emotional eating: move, meditate, and mindful eating.
This was the first study to assess the association between eating behaviors in healthy individuals and cardiovascular damage 13 years later.
The team tested 1,109 participants of the STANISLAS cohort, which enrolled parents and adolescents in the Lorraine region of northeast France between 1993 and 1995.
Emotional eating, which is the tendency to overeat in response to negative emotions such as sadness or anxiety, was assessed using the Dutch Eating Behavior Questionnaire.
Measures of cardiovascular damage included carotid-femoral pulse-wave velocity and diastolic dysfunction, which indicate stiffness in the arteries and heart, respectively.
According to previous studies, rises in pulse-wave velocity, meaning stiffer arteries, are associated with higher risks of heart disease and stroke.
Diastolic dysfunction, meaning the heart relaxes insufficiently after contraction, is correlated with a greater likelihood of developing heart failure.
The team found emotional eating was associated with higher pulse-wave velocity (stiffer arteries) and a 38% increased risk of diastolic dysfunction (stiffer heart).
They found that stress level explained 32% of the association between emotional eating and diastolic dysfunction.
The team concluded that efforts to prevent cardiovascular disease should address eating behaviors on top of nutritional content.
If you care about heart health, please read studies that apple juice could benefit your heart health, and Yogurt may help lower the death risks in heart disease.
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The study was conducted by Professor Nicolas Girerd et al and published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
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