A diet high in fat combined with a lifestyle full of stress can cause a significant weight gain, according to a new study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
The study says that a combination of a diet high in unhealthy fat, along with a history of depression and stress can cause weight gain while burning fewer calories. Stress also often causes binge eating of unhealthy food high in saturated fat, which attributes to weight gain.
Researchers in the study interviewed 58 women about their stress level during their daily activities. They were asked questions regarding activities that can cause a significant amount of stress they deal with each day, such as arguing with a spouse, dealing with children, or dealing with a stressful work environment.
The following day, the participants were given a meal high in saturated fat. The meal consisted of eggs, gravy, biscuits, and sausage. The meal totaled 930 calories and 60 grams of fat.
After the meal, the researchers had the women wear masks that calculated a number of factors in order to determine the amount of calories burned. The masks calculated the speed of metabolism and measured their levels of sugar, insulin, cholesterol, and the stress hormone cortisol.
It was discovered that of the 58 women who said they were stressed the day before the high-fat meal burned 100 calories less than the participants who were not stressed. This lack of calories burned could add approximately eleven pounds per year.
“When we’re stressed we tend to reach for the comfort foods and so it really is kind of a double-whammy,” said Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, lead author and psychology professor at Ohio State College of Medicine. “Those are the foods we reach for and those are the very foods that with stress are more likely to slow metabolism.”
One aspect of the experiment is that the women were not able to choose their own food, but instead were all given the same meal. In their normal lives, the women could have different outcomes if they had been able to make their own healthier choices.
Health experts are taking this data with a more holistic approach by saying that people should have some common sense when choosing a meal, especially when stressed, which is often satisfied with processed foods.
“They’re high in fat, they’re high in sugar, and they’re high in calories. That’s probably not a shock. What we now know conclusively is that they activate the reward centers in the brain that are the same centers that are activated when people use drugs,” said ABC News Senior Medical Contributor Dr. Jennifer Ashton. “And you know, we can’t avoid stress, so it’s all a matter of coping. Meditation is a great way to do it.”
Experts say a healthy diet, exercise, and a lot of water can balance out the occasional junk food and lead to a healthy life.
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