Yes, this is the findings from a study presented at the Association For Psychological Science 26th Annual Convention earlier this week.
The researchers asked people about what food they find comforting and also some foods that they liked but did not consider comforting. They then asked them to watch a short video designed to elicit “feelings of sadness, anger and fear”. The participants were asked to rate their mood before being given either their comfort food or something else such as a muesli (granola) bar and then asked to rate their mood again (3 minutes later). The experiment was repeated so that the people were given their comfort food on one occasion and another food item on the other.
Regardless of whether they were given the comfort food or a muesli bar, the mood of the participants improved after 3 minutes. The researchers suggest that people are always looking for explanations for things and in this case it can lead to unhealthy diet choices. People feel sad, they think something like chocolate would make them feel better so they eat some and then they feel better and attribute this to the chocolate. What this research shows is that they would have felt better even without the chocolate.
Well, that is at least what they found under controlled conditions, the researchers stress that whether this is also true in the real world where other stress factors are at play needs to be looked at.