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Wednesday
Jul092014

Can World Cup Heartbreak Affect Your Health?

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As Brazilian fans start to recover from their devastating loss to Germany in the World Cup semifinals, experts say that heartbroken fans should be sure to take care of themselves as losing can come at a cost greater than national pride.

A 2013 study published in Psychological Science journal found that fans were more likely to eat high fat and high calorie meals after their team lost an important game. Researchers looked at the eating habits of 726 people in cities with National Football League teams.

In cities where a team lost, fans consoled themselves by eating 10 percent more calories than a normal Monday and 16 percent more saturated fat, according to The Telegraph.

A similar study by the same authors conducted a study with 78 French sports fans and found when fans -- especially soccer fans -- wrote about a game their favorite team had lost, they ended up reaching for comfort food.

While experts have long known that people can overeat when they’re emotional, it wasn’t clear if simply losing the big game would qualify.

According to the study’s lead author and Ph.D candidate in marketing at the INSTEAD business school in Paris, Yann Cornil, the researchers were surprised with how clear the findings were.

“The research was usually done in a lab in which people watch sad movies and we look at how much we eat,” said lead author Yann Cornil. “It’s not very realistic. We were not sure in collecting real world data would replicate the results.”

But binging after a loss isn’t the only way a game can affect the health of devoted fans. Yann pointed out a 2011 study that examined traffic patterns after college and basketball games and found that nerve-rattling, close games could result in a rise in fatalities by as much as 133 percent.

Dr. Todd Peters, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Vanderbilt Medical Center, said the biggest fans will often strongly identify with a team and this can be even more pronounced during international competitions where a sense of national pride also unifies fans.

“There’s the associating with the players, but also saying ‘This is us against the world,’ in the competition,” said Peters. “People will identify with certain player attributes or identity of a team…it’s that key piece that does bring up the level of emotions you see in defeat.”

Peters said it might just be game, but that fans can experience the same emotional devastation as going through a break-up, including depression and anger.

“When there is a loss it is almost like a break-up,” said Peters. “The team can no longer go on. You have to wait another four years to experience it again.”


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio