After an especially draining day, it’s not uncommon to indulge in a slice from your favorite pizza joint. Soon, that’s followed by a second slice, which is washed down with some ice cream and maybe a few cookies, too. Emotional eating is common, and the American Psychological Association estimates that about 38 percent of adults have used junk food as a cure for stress.

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A new project dubbed “Emo Eat” at the University of Salzburg aims to explore the relationship between mood and unhealthy eating habits.

“We focus on food intake not driven by hunger,” explains principal investigator Jens Blechert in a story in scilog, the Austrian Science Fund magazine. The ASF is also funding the project. “We want to work out the connection between emotions and eating that takes the form of an enhanced appetite for easily available comfort food.”

The study will look at the diets of women, since females tend to be more affected by eating disorders, and use lab experiments, an eating diary app and theories to identify the relationship between eating and emotions.

In a prior online survey conducted by the university, researchers found that happy people eat typical amounts while those who are fearful or angry eat less. Researchers chalk this up to the body releasing cortisol, which preps the body for a flight or fight response, suppressing appetite. Sadness and frustration, however, encourage eating, according to scilog.

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The team believes this could help develop new treatments for disorders like binge eating. Healthline reports that Binge Eating Disorder often occurs among women in their late teens or early 20s. About 2.8 million people suffer from BED, which was recognized as a formal diagnosis in 2013, writes the health site. It’s more common than breast cancer, HIV, and schizophrenia, and while more often found in women, is the most common eating disorder in men.

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