No calorie comfort: Viewing and drawing "comfort foods" similarly augment positive mood for those with depression

J Health Psychol. 2018 Mar;23(4):598-607. doi: 10.1177/1359105316681861. Epub 2016 Dec 12.


Based on behavioral and neurobiological data, we tested the hypothesis that viewing/drawing visual images of comfort foods in the absence of eating will increase positive mood and that this effect is augmented for those with clinical symptoms of depression. A counterbalanced design was used for 60 participants with and without clinical symptoms in two variations: food image and food art. In each variation, participants viewed/drew foods high or low in fat/sugar; pre-post mood was recorded. Results show a consistent pattern: viewing/drawing comfort foods [food image (95% confidence interval): 2.72-4.85; food art (95% confidence interval): 2.65-4.62] and fruits [food image (95% confidence interval): 1.20-2.23; food art (95% confidence interval): 1.51-2.56] enhanced mood. For comfort foods, mood was augmented for those with clinical symptoms of depression [food image (95% confidence interval): 0.95-3.59; food art (95% confidence interval): 0.97-3.46]. Findings corroborate previous data and reveal a novel finding of augmented mood increases for those with clinical symptoms.

Keywords: depression; emotion; food; obesity; treatment.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Art Therapy / methods*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Depression / complications
  • Depression / psychology
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Energy Intake
  • Female
  • Food*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Visual Perception*