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Stress changes the way we process food

Stress changes the way we process foodThe study’s main author Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology at Ohio State University, said that stress alters the way body processes food.

During the study her team discovered that when women consume a high calorie breakfast packed with ‘healthy’ fat post a stressful event, their bodies not just burned lesser calories but also showed elevated levels of damaging health indicators in blood as if they have consumed ‘bad’ fat meal.

In the research Kiecolt-Glaser and team compared women who consumed identical breakfasts composed of gravy, eggs, biscuits, and turkey sausage. A few meals were prepared using palm oil, high in saturated fat. Other women consumed the same meal, but prepared with monounsaturated sunflower oil, called ‘good’ fat. The two breakfasts included 930 calories and 60 grams of fat, nearly equivalent to consuming a Big Mac and medium fries.

The researchers mentioned that when women had a stressful event the day prior to breakfast, the emotional reaction to that event nullified the advantages of the healthier fat.

The women who consumed ‘bad’ fat meals demonstrated higher blood markers for elevated inflammation and the odds of plaque accumulation in the arteries. Kiecolt-Glaser explained that it’s known that ‘good’ fat decreases inflammation, but following a stressful event, participants who consumed the monounsaturated fat fared the same in blood tests as their opposites.

The study, appeared in Molecular Psychiatry, didn’t test for stress effect on people who consumed balanced or low-calorie diet. The study indicated that individuals who consumed very high fat and high calorie diets burn lesser calories when tensed.

According to a report in Herald-Review News by Melissa Healy, "New research on women, stress and diet amply illustrates that sad fact. It shows that even when women greeted a new day with a “better-for-you” fast-food breakfast, that meal’s expected health-promoting qualities were washed away by the carry-over effects of yesterday’s stresses."
Stress changes the way we process food

For women who reported experiencing no stress on the day before they showed up to participate in a study, eating a breakfast formulated with healthy fats paid handsome dividends: Compared with women who got a breakfast larded with saturated fat, after eating, these women saw no jump in several markers of inflammation — measures that are strongly linked to a wide range of diseases.

Those findings, reported Tuesday in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, help illuminate the complex interactions between what we eat, how we live and whether we develop chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease or depression. At the core of this nexus is inflammation — a normal, healthy immune response when it’s in check; a harbinger of trouble when it’s chronically out of control.

A report published in the Emax Health News said, "New research from Ohio State University suggests that stress can derail your healthful eating changes. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine at Wexner Medical Center, says that stress complicates the way the body processes food. Her research seems to confirm other studies that have shown that a person’s metabolic rate is lower and insulin levels are higher following a stressful day."

The women who were free of stress tended to have better blood test results after they ate the monounsaturated fat breakfast, compared to when they ate the saturated fat alternative. The ladies had lower levels of inflammatory markers and also tested lower for cell adhesion

So while you are planning that week’s worth of healthy meals, monitor your stress levels over the week as well. Find ways to reduce your stress – and one of the best ways is a regular exercise routine! Past studies show that those who exercise have lower levels of stress and also fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression.
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