University of New South Wales (UNSW) researchers have shown that 'comfort eating' is not a socially contrived phenomenon - but rather one based in biology. The result could explain why some people over-eat when under stress.

The research will be presented as part of the Dean's Lecture Series at UNSW.

Professor of Pharmacology, Margaret Morris, says she was surprised by findings linking a high-fat diet and pleasure in animals that had experienced stress early in life.

"What this might be telling us is that there is something going on in the brain circuits that regulate feeding if you are stressed while very young - but if you are given nice things to eat, you are more able to experience pleasure," said Professor Morris, from the School of Medical Sciences.

"You choose that behaviour because it makes you feel good," she said.

Professor Morris's presentation will include other findings including:

"While we know there are strong genetic and environmental components in obesity, there is also a strong nexus between hormones produced in your fat and what happens to your brain appetite circuits, your hunger and your drive for food," she said.

Some of this work was performed by PhD students Elena Velkoska and Jayanthi Maniam.

Contact: Professor Margaret Morris, 0404 790 699, or Susi Hamilton, UNSW Media unit 9385 1583 or 0422 934 024