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A Bad Marriage Can Make You Eat More, Study Says

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Turning to comfort food after an argument with your spouse could be less about emotional eating and more about your biology, according to a new study.

Couples can indeed be affected by the stressors of fighting - so much so that their hunger hormones are altered after a hostile exchange, explained researchers from the University of Delaware and Ohio State University.

A total of 43 couples were involved in the study, which gauged how marital stress can shift eating patterns. The main finding was that, following a spat, the hunger hormone ghrelin spiked in individuals who were at a healthy weight or overweight. A rise in ghrelin will typically cause increased hunger and a desire to eat beyond what you normally do.

"Hostile couples had significantly higher amounts of the appetite-triggering hormone after arguments," a press release on the study stated.

Does rejection make you hungry?

Researcher Lisa Jaremka theorized that emotional challenges like rejection or fighting can make people seek comfort in food - but the study confirms this behavior may indeed be rooted in biological triggers, not just emotional ones.

While researchers didn't find an association between marital fighting and hunger in obese people, they pointed out that many people seek relief from stress in in "comfort food" - which can set up an unhealthy pattern for people who aren't yet facing serious weight problems.

If factors like marital tension and appetite are indeed so closely linked, Jaremka said, the study could help clinicians better address the topic of weight gain with patients.

"Right now, it's one-size-fits-all - diet and exercise," she said. "I hope this will help us start to tailor interventions. These studies suggest people have difficulty controlling appetite and with specific types of foods.... A personalized approach would be beneficial in the long run."

Source: University of Delaware