August 30, 2012

Comfort Foods Are Most Popular Last Meals on Death Row, Cornell Researchers Find

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As prisoners on death row live out their final hours –– and choose their last meals –– they are far more likely to ask for a burger and fries than a Caesar salad, according to a study by Cornell researchers posted online this week in the journal Appetite.

The researchers, who studied 193 last meal requests in the United States between 2002 and 2006, found that the meals tended to be high in calories and heavy on meat. Commonly requested items included french fries, soda, ice cream, hamburgers, steak and pie, according to the Associated Press.

While the requests varied, the researchers found some general trends among the last meals that were ordered. More than two-thirds of inmates ordered fried foods, such as french fries, and a similar number ordered dessert. About five times as many prisoners requested soda as requested milk. The average meal weighed in at 2,756 calories, far more than the Food and Drug Administration’s daily recommended diet of 2,000 calories.

Comfort foods were popular among the criminals studied by the researchers. More than a third requested chicken, while 24 percent asked for a hamburger and 22 percent asked for steak. While a quarter requested a salad, four percent requested meals from fast food chains such as McDonald’s and KFC.

The large number of requests for comfort foods and name-brand items such as Coca-Cola may be due to a desire by inmates to deal with an incredibly high-stress situation by surrounding themselves with familiar foods, according to Prof. Brian Wansink, applied economics and management, who was the study’s lead researcher.

“In some ways, this might be a way to bring the level of stress and negative excitement down to something that’s something a little bit more manageable,” Wansink told the AP. “You don’t find people going for Neapolitan ice cream or for Chunky Monkey or Chubby Hubby. They go for chocolate; they go for vanilla.”

The researchers also said the patterns of chosen meals could reflect the socio-economic backgrounds of the death row inmates.

Original Author: David Marten