A team of researchers from Chicago university say the distraction of eating or drinking for pleasure acts as a natural painkiller, and can actually make people feel better.
Dr Peggy Mason, of Chicago University, who carried out research into rats and their response to pain, found they were less bothered by pain if they were eating a chocolate chip or drinking water. 'It's a strong, strong effect, but it's not about hunger or appetite,' she told the Daily Mail.
Past studies have shown that eating can ease pain. However, the latest study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, is the first to show that food and drink act as a painkiller in the absence of hunger or thirst.
'This really shows it has nothing to do with calories,' Dr Mason said. 'Water has no calories, saccharine has no sugar, but both have the same effect as a chocolate chip. It's really shocking.'
In 2005 scientists at the University of Cincinatti, in the US, found that sugary foods and drinks cut levels of the potentially harmful hormone glucocorticoid, which the brain produces when we're under pressure.
The research on rats showed when they had sugary food or drink, their bodies produced lower levels of glucocorticoid in response to stressful situations.
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