Stress, anxiety and depression can trigger bio-chemical reactions that cause cravings for comfort foods. The compulsive snacking that results can undermine the success and effectiveness of most weight loss programs.
Mental or emotional stress can cause abnormal cravings and excess consumption of food called reactional hyperphagia, or “I can’t stop eating”. Such stress actually elicits brain-chemical and hormonal changes that decrease the sense of fullness and increase the need for a reward – often the compulsion for comfort food.
These reward pathways, which often start with comfort foods, are identical to the reward pathways underlying drug addiction.
Interestingly, saffron, which is made from the red stigmas of the crocus flower, targets certain neurotransmitters in the brain responsible for reactional hyperphagia.
Researchers believe that constituents in saffron may increase serotonin activity in the brain, which may normalize the bio-chemistry of appetite regulation and reward pathways.
A placebo controlled study found that 176.5 mg/day of saffron decreased snacking events by an average of 55%.
Saffron has been used in Ayurveda for thousands of years for anxiety, stress, mood support and to build “ojas,” a substance in the body that supports immunity and vitality. Interestingly, ojas-building foods like saffron have been used in Ayurveda to reset reward pathways with the bio-chemical pathways of love, giving and joy.