Loneliness leads to hunger
It's no secret that comfort eating can be a problem. Many turn to calories after a tough day in the office, when things are going wrong in their personal lives or if they're feeling tired. But now it's been claimed there could be another reason for relying on unhealthy treats - loneliness.
A study by Ohio State University psychologists found that women who feel they have no one to turn to can also experience greater hunger and are sated by big meals. It's thought this could be a throwback to past times, when eating was an incredibly social thing.
The research saw 42 women asked not to eat overnight, and then to consume a big breakfast. Before and after the food, each rated how hungry they were and their blood was tested for ghrelin - the so-called hunger hormone. Alongside this they'd been asked questions about how lonely they felt, and what others would say about their social life.
Predictably, once they'd consumed some food the hormone fell, rising again afterwards. But it was discovered the women who admitted to lacking human contact had a much sharper increase in ghrelin, and they produced much more of it too. They also said they felt hungrier.
"The need for social connection is fundamental to human nature. Consequently, people may feel hungrier when they feel socially disconnected," the report in the journal Hormones and Behavior explained.
Also of note was that weight played a part in how women felt. Those who were lonely and slim felt hungrier, whereas females who were overweight didn't show any changes. It's thought this might be because people who are obese don't feel as comfortable eating in front of others.
This isn't the only study which has reported how detrimental loneliness can be on a person. Previously, it's been suggested that not having friends can also lead to high blood pressure, depression and stress.