Football Fan

Back a Losing Team, Pack on Some Pounds

That list of 100 potential causes of obesity needs room for one more: backing a losing team. Yann Cornill and Pierre Chandon of INSEAD found a link between vicarious football losses and unhealthy eating in both retrospective analyses and controlled experiments. They found similar effects in American football fans and French soccer fans.

Comparing household food intake in cities with winning and losing NFL teams, the investigators found that saturated fat and caloric consumption rose in cities with losing teams on the day after the game. And they found healthier eating in cities with a winning team on the day after the game. They also found the strongest effects in cities with the most committed fans and after close games.

French soccer fans demonstrated similar effects when writing about or watching highlights of winning or losing soccer matches. The investigators found that these effects were neutralized by prompting fans to reflect on more satisfying aspects of their lives.

Said Chandon:

It’s an impact most people aren’t aware of, except that when we start pointing it out to people they laugh and say, “yes, it’s true, when my team is losing I want comfort food, I want unhealthy food and the hell with that diet.” Sports defeats, especially football defeats, increase the chances of people getting a heart attack, it increases domestic violence and it also increases traffic fatalities.

We’re tempted to ask, who needs football? But love for the Steelers is mandatory here in Pittsburgh.

Click here to read more from NPR and click here to read the study in Psychological Science.

Football Fan, photograph © Rafael Peñaloza / flickr

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.