Neonatal stress could have lasting effect on eating habits

Stress in early life could have a lasting effect on eating habits, according to new research.

Scientists claim to have found evidence that early life stress leads to deeper cravings for comfort food in adulthood.

According to, they came to this conclusion after completing a test on baby rats. Some rats were placed in a stressful environment with reduced nesting material in the first few days of their life, whilst others were placed in standard care.

It was discovered that the stressed rats showed more symptoms of anxiety later on in life and were more partial to comfort food than other rats.

It is believed that this link between early life anxiety and a preference for comfort food could also be found in humans. The scientists will present their findings at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behaviour this week. It could be of interest to anyone in counselling careers, who are often tasked with noting links between mental health conditions and a patient's diet.

In an interview with, the study's lead author Tania Machado concluded: "In neonatally stressed rats, a greater consumption of "comfort foods" is possibly used as a way to alleviate anxiety symptoms (self-medication). Future studies in this area may have implications for primary care on childhood nutrition in vulnerable populations."