I’ve been ranting away here on the importance of food when it comes to people who are ill and suffering from post-operative discomfort. Tasty grub takes your mind off the pain and turns agony into ecstasy.
Well, according to The Daily Mail, it turns out that I’m not deranged but am spot on with my observation. A team of researchers at Chicago University has discovered that rats are less bothered by pain if they’re eating chocolate or drinking water. It seems the very act of eating or drinking takes their mind off the pain.
“It's a strong, strong effect, but it’s not about hunger or appetite,” claims Dr Peggy Mason, head of the research team. “If you have food in front of you that’s easily available to reach out and get, you're not going to stop eating, for basically almost any reason.”
Previous studies have shown that eating can ease pain; but this 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 has to be the excuse that the world’s lard arses and morbidly obese have been looking for. Forget the old chestnuts about being big boned, having a low metabolism or simply suffering from glandular problems. Now you can blame those extra pounds on pain and suffering. Just imagine… you can stuff your face with Mars bars while getting sympathy at the same time for that ‘hurty’ knee or ingrown toenail.
In the Chicago experiments, rats were given either chocolate, sugar water or plain water while the floor of their cage was heated with a light bulb positioned beneath it. The animals reacted to the heat by raising a paw off the floor. However, the animals were much slower to raise their feet when they were busy eating or drinking. Apparently it made no difference whether the rats were eating chocolate or drinking water, despite past studies which found that only sugary food or drink protected against pain. Perhaps the fat and the greedy might like to keep hush about that bit of the research.
Dr Mason believes the effect can also be found in humans. Past studies have shown that babies suffer less pain if they are given a sugary drink while having a vaccine booster. However, the good doctor believes the latest findings could end the practice of using sweets to calm down children when they visit the doctor. “Ingestion is a painkiller but we don't need the sugar,” claims Dr Mason. “So we could replace the doctor's lollipop with a drink of water instead.”
She sounds like a right old misery, doesn’t she? In the meantime, if you find yourself on the wrong end of a migraine or a nasty bout of period pain today, you can pop off to the staff canteen for a bar of chocolate without feeling guilty. After all, it’s the ultimate feel-good health food. And that’s official!