Forget the Aspirin, Think About Chocolate Cake

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Forget the Aspirin, Think About Chocolate Cake

Food fantasies may alleviate pain

-Brittany Fenning

woman enjoying chocolate cakeWhile eating our favorite foods may not whip us in shape for the upcoming bathing suit season, fantasizing about them can have some surprising side effects.

As children, we’re often taught a happy distraction, such as thinking about a sunny day at the beach, can make a scraped knee that much bearable. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin decided to take this idea of distraction a step further, testing the effect of food fantasies on pain threshold.

“We found that food fantasies, such as imagining eating your favorite ice cream, chocolate cake or meal had a strong pain-attenuating effect. It enhanced mood, reduced anxiety, and helped coping with ice water pain,” explained lead author of the study and psychology professor Dr. Hamid Hekmat to ABC News.

The researchers conducted the study with 60 individuals in a two-step process. In the first stage, individuals were asked to dip their hand in icy water to establish their pain threshold. In the second step, individuals were asked to once again dip their hand in the icy water, but were also asked to envision their favorite meal, imagine an everyday scene or to think about nothing at all.

At the conclusion of the study, Hekmat found that participants who fantasized about their favorite food were actually able to withstand pain twice as well as their non- fantasizing counterparts. So what mouthwatering goodies did the participants fantasize about to subside the suffering? Chocolate came in first at 32 percent, followed closely by roast dinner at 31 percent, pasta at 14 percent, pizza at 8 percent and lastly, fruit at 4 percent.

We all know our favorite foods can make our mouths water, but why should that have any effect on our pain tolerance?

“Excitement absorbs attention and pleasant imagery can induce hypnotic-like states that detracts from pain, improves positive mood and reinforces personal belief in the manageability of pain,” explained Hekmat.

So the next time you experience mind-numbing cramps, or a badly stubbed toe, relief is as close as chocolate cake … just don’t eat it.

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