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Stress and High-Fat Meals a Wicked Combination

Aug. 6, 2014|163 views
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Let's see a quick show of hands. How many of you have ever indulged in stress eating? You know; stress eating means turning to food to provide comfort, help calm you down, and provide a bit of a reward after enduring a stressful event, day, or week. I'd venture to say most of us have been there. It's more or less human nature to seek comfort in food.

But what happens when that food amounts to a high-fat meal? You know; the most comforting food of all. Well, according to new research from Ohio State University, when women indulge in a high-fat meal after a stressful event or two in the previous days, it sets the stage for a significant change in their metabolism. In short, it can do far more damage to long-term body weight maintenance than consuming a few too many calories might otherwise do. It could set your metabolic thermostat low enough to set you up for greater, long-term weight gain.

The downward shifts in metabolic rate among stressed women who ate a high-fat meal were significant enough to lead to 11 additional pounds of body fat within a year. Eleven pounds! From a single over-indulgent meal at the "wrong" time. I find that shocking. Granted, the meal was truly indulgent. The women consumed a meal consisting of about 930 calories and 60 grams of fat. That would be a whopper of a meal even for a teenage linebacker. But researchers pointed out that it's not uncommon for stressed people to order similar meals at fast-food outlets under typical circumstances.

"This means that, over time, stressors could lead to weight gain," said Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology at Ohio State University and lead author of the study, in a press release. "We know from other data that we're more likely to eat the wrong foods when we're stressed, and our data say that when we eat the wrong foods, weight gain becomes more likely because we are burning fewer calories."

This makes it all the more important to stick to your dietary principles from day to day. This research suggests that just one brief episode of falling off the wagon can set you up for future weight gain. Scientists have long noted an apparent link between stress and weight gain, and this may demonstrate a mechanism behind that observation.

Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser, Diane L. Habash, Christopher P. Fagundes, Rebecca Andridge, Juan Peng, William B. Malarkey, Martha A. Belury. Daily Stressors, Past Depression, and Metabolic Responses to High-Fat Meals: A Novel Path to Obesity. Biological Psychiatry, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.05.018

Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser, Diane L. Habash, Christopher P. Fagundes, Rebecca Andridge, Juan Peng, William B. Malarkey, Martha A. Belury. Daily Stressors, Past Depression, and Metabolic Responses to High-Fat Meals: A Novel Path to Obesity. Biological Psychiatry, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.05.018

 

Tags:  stress, health tips, body image
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