Highly stressed people who eat lots of high-fat food 'prone to health risks'
Researchers have showed that highly stressed people who eat a lot of high-fat, high-sugar food are more prone to health risks than low-stress people who eat the same amount of unhealthy food.
Kirstin Aschbacher, PhD, an assistant professor in the UCSF Department of Psychiatry and lead author, said chronic stress can play an important role in influencing biology, and it's critical to understand the exact pathways through which it works.
She said that many people think a calorie is a calorie, but this study suggests that two women who eat the same thing could have different metabolic responses based on their level of stress.
Aschbacher said there appears to be a stress pathway that works through diet - for example, it could be similar to what we see in animals, where fat cells grow faster in response to junk food when the body is chronically stressed.
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of abnormalities - increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels - that occur together, increasing a person's risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
While this stress-junk food pathway has been well mapped out with rodents and primates, this study is the first to suggest the same pathways may be at work in chronically stressed humans, according to the researchers.
The study looked at a group of 61 disease-free women; 33 were chronically stressed women caring for a spouse or parent with dementia, and 28 were women with low stress. Over the course of a year, the women reported their consumption of high sugar, high fat foods.
The study has been published online in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.
(Posted on 30-04-2014)