It's fairly common for people to eat "comfort food" when they get stressed. It's no secret that doing so could cause serious health problems, including significant weight gain and even diabetes. However, stress can make you gain weight even if you eat a fairly healthy diet.
A study out of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found that eating a high-fat meal during or after stressful events increases your insulin levels and slows down your metabolism. This can lead to unnecessary weight gain. But the researchers found that the stress was as big of a factor in weight gain as the type of food you eat.
The researchers looked at 58 women who ate standard meals for the day prior to the study. Then they asked the participants to fast for 12 hours before the study began. The participants also filled out questionnaires to determine any depressive tendencies and their level of physical activity. Then the researchers asked about any stressors that occurred the day before.
The researchers asked the women to participate in two study days. Thirty-one of the women reported that they'd experienced a stressor the day before the study on one of the study days, and 21 reported they'd had prior stressors on both study days. Only six women reported no stressors on both study days.
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After they finished the questionnaires, the participants were asked to eat a meal of eggs, turkey sausage, biscuits, and gravy in 20 minutes. The calories and fat content of the meal were similar to that of a loaded two-patty hamburger and French fries. On one of the study days, the meal contained saturated fat, and on the other day it contained sunflower oil, which is high in monounsaturated fat.
The researchers thought that the saturated fat would have a more negative impact on the women's metabolisms. But that's not what happened. They found that both meals had similar results. Those who had reported a stressor burned fewer calories and also experienced a spike in insulin for 90 minutes after consumption. In other words, when you're stressed, your body doesn't burn as many calories.
The women who reported both a stressor and a history of depression also experienced a steeper rise in their triglycerides after eating. Higher levels of triglycerides can put you at risk of cardiovascular disease. Again, this was due to the stress - not the diet.
So it's vital you minimize stress in your life. But that isn't always possible. In this day and age, stress is incredibly common. We live in a stressful world. Exercise will help reduce the effects of stress and boost your metabolism so you can burn more calories.
But you also can protect your body against stress by taking the right nutrients. Adaptogens like Rhodiola root, ashwagandha root, American ginseng, and Honokiol bark all can help reduce the damage stress does to your body. There also are some Chinese herbs that can help calm your body down during stressful times. These allow you to handle stress more effectively. They include astragalus root, Chinese yam root, cortex eucommia bark, chinensis seed, eleuthero root, and schisandra fruit. You can find all of these in Advanced Bionutritionals' new Advanced Stress Relief. The powerful blend of nutrients can help you handle stress better, protect you from the stress you do experience, and help you avoid unwanted weight gain caused by the stress.
Your insider for better health,
Steve Kroening, ND.
“Women's metabolism slowed by combination of stress and high-fat meals,” The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Wednesday 16 July 2014.