Improve Your Bad Mood with Fatty Food

A new study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, showed that this great big delicious, chocolate-fudge ice cream sundae has the power to reduce feelings of sadness.

Congratulations science… now know what every Mom with a crying child has known for millenia.

Food soothes raw emotions.

ice cream sundae Improve Your Bad Mood with Fatty Food

In particular, fatty foods can reduce feelings of sadness or stress or depression…

The Science

The researchers took a group of twelve healthy human volunteers and:

  1. Put them on a 12 hour fast
  2. Induced either neutral or sad emotions (via music & visual images)
  3. Delivered an intragastric infusion of either fatty acids of saline
  4. Measured their levels of fullness, hunger, nausea and mood
  5. Performed a 40-minute fMRI scan, while
  6. Measuring fullness, hunger, nausea and mood 3 more times during the fMRI scan.

Here’s what they found

  • Hunger scores increased during sad emotion and decreased during neutral emotion conditions (main effect of emotion).
  • The difference in hunger ratings between the emotions was much smaller in fat compared with that in saline vehicle conditions (fat-by-emotion interaction effect)
  • This indicates that the effect of sad mood on hunger is attenuated by fatty acids.
  • The fMRI results agreed with these findings – showing that the behavioral and nerve cell responses to sad emotions were also lessened.

fat hunger sadness graph 1 Improve Your Bad Mood with Fatty Food

  • Mood ratings decreased during the sad conditions, with no change or a slight increase during the neutral conditions (main effect of emotion).
  • The difference between emotions was smaller in the fat than in the saline vehicle conditions (fat-by-emotion interaction effect).
  • This difference confirms that fatty acids successfully moderate feelings of sadness.

fat hunger sadness graph 2 Improve Your Bad Mood with Fatty Food


Previous research has shown that sugary, high-carb foods are effective in attenuating moods - ie making sad people less sad.

This study shows that dietary fat has the same effect.

However, it neglects to mention that drowning your sorrows in lasagna & ice cream sundaes is not a fool-proof solution.

Garfield Lasagna 1 Improve Your Bad Mood with Fatty Food



Doug Robb is a personal trainer, a fitness blogger and author, a competitive athlete, a social media nerd and a student of nutrition and exercise science. Since 2008, Doug has brought his real-world experience online via his health & fitness blog, Health Habits.


  1. Joshua

    August 24, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    I’ve known this for some time, low blood sugar makes one cranky, so it’s only natural that high blood sugar will have a reverse effect.
    But a healthy and balanced diet is still the best.

  2. KymberlyFunFit

    July 26, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Fatty foods may temporarily attenuate sadness, but after a few hours, mood actually goes back down. Very interesting article that I am glad to have read. The key is the aspect of TEMPORARY boost. Another super interesting point you mention, though it is not highlighted is that sadness increases hunger. Love to see a post with more on that aspect. Thanks!