In Abnormal Psychology, we were taking about eating disorders, and the biological basis for bingeing. The NY Times has an article today regarding research with monkeys which shows stress-related eating binges occur in lower-status monkeys, but they only binge on monkey junk food…
Eating Junk Food May Help Stressed-Out Monkeys Cope – New York Times:
“Essentially, eating high-calorie foods becomes a coping strategy to deal with daily life events for an individual in a difficult social situation,” Dr. Wilson said. “The subordinates don’t get beat up, but they get harassed by high-ranking monkeys. If they’re sitting somewhere and a dominant monkey comes over, they give up their seat and move away. They’re always looking over their shoulders.”
These results seem to jibe with the famous Whitehall study of British civil servants, which found that lower-ranking workers were more obese than higher-status workers. Even though the subordinate workers were neither poor nor lacked health care, their lower status correlated with more health problems.
The new monkey data also jibe with an American study that looked at women’s snacking tendencies. After they worked on puzzles and recorded a speech, the women were tempted with an array of chocolate granola bars, potato chips, rice cakes and pretzels provided by the research team, led by Elissa Epel, a psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco.
The women who seemed most stressed by the tasks, as measured by their levels of cortisol, ate more of the sweet, high-fat snacks, the same pattern observed in the subordinate monkeys with high cortisol levels. But as Dr. Wilson and others caution, there are plenty of other factors besides status and stress that affect humans’ diets and waistlines.
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