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Supporting a losing team often leads to supporters binging on unhealthy food as a coping mechanism for their loss. Read on to find out about a study which says that supporting a losing team could be harmful for your health.

Is supporting a losing sport team bad for your health?

A recent study has found that supporting a losing sports team can actually be bad for your health. The study was conducted by Dr Yann Cornil and Prof. Pierre Chandon from the INSEAD Business School. The study was conducted to analyze the effect of defeats and victories of soccer teams on the food consumption of their supporters.

In his study Dr. Cornil points out the supporters perceive their favorite team’s wins or losses as their own. These wins and losses have been known to make an impact on the self-regulation abilities of the supporters.

There is a spurt in alcohol-related criminal activities, cardiac accidents, and domestic violence after narrow or unexpected defeats of local football and soccer teams. Dr. Cornil’s study was aimed at analyzing the effect of defeats of sport teams on the food intake of their supporters.

For this study, Dr. Cornil and his team collected the results from two seasons of NFL games and compared them with the supporter’s food consumption data from more than two dozen cities. For the study, more than 700 NFL supporters were asked to maintain a record of the foods they consumed on the game day and on two days subsequent to the game day. As part of the study about 475 games and 30 different teams were observed.

The study found that people living in cities that had a losing football team ate approximately 16% more saturated fats than what they would normally consume on the Monday following the day of the game.

On the other hand, people living in cities that had a winning football team consumed about 9% less saturated fat than their normal consumption. It was also found that the unhealthy food indulgence was even more pronounced in the more devoted supporters. The study found that people consumed healthier food when their favorite football team won and indulged in unhealthy food when their team lost unexpectedly or by a narrow margin. Dr. Cornil attributed this trait of indulgence in unhealthy food to a feeling of identity threat and a subsequent loss of self-worth. Such people turned to eating as a mechanism for coping with this stressful situation. The researchers involved in the study point out that when a team wins, it eventually boosts the supporter’s self control.

The researchers suggested that if the supporters of the losing teams actually wrote down the things that were important to them in life, it helped in countering the effect. This self-affirmation technique was found to be quite helpful in neutralizing the psychological effect of the defeat.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • “Testosterone changes during vicarious experiences of winning and losing among fans at sporting events.”, by PC Bernhardt, et all. Published in the August 1998 issue of Physiology and Behavior, accessed on September 4, 2013
  • “From fan to fat? Vicarious losing increases unhealthy eating, but self-affirmation is an effective remedy” by Yann Cornil, et al. Published in Volume 82, Issue 4 of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, accessed on September 4, 2013.
  • Photo courtesy of Jam Smooth by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/jamsmooth/3492471735/
  • Photo courtesy of Piotr Drabik by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/drabikpany/5818384133/

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