Stress Eating: New Study Shows How Stress Can Affect Eating Patterns And What To Do About It

Jinger Jarrett - Author
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Aug. 9 2015, Updated 10:40 a.m. ET

In a recent study published in the Journal Neuron, authors discovered that even moderate stress causes a certain lack of control when eating. Although a few people tend to eat less when under stress, most tend to eat more, and reach for foods that provide comfort, are fried, or taste delicious. Researchers decided to test their theory that stress contributes to food choices and ultimately leads to unhealthy foods when participants were under stress.

As reported in NDTV Food, lead author Silvia Maier from the University of Switzerland said it was an important step to understanding stress and self control.

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“Our findings provide an important step towards understanding the interactions between stress and self-control in the human brain, with the effects of stress operating through multiple neural pathways. Self-control abilities are sensitive to perturbations at several points within this network, and optimal self-control requires a precise balance of input from multiple brain regions rather than a simple on/off switch.”

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The study included 29 participants who underwent treatment to induce moderate stress using an ice bath. Then they were offered two different food options. Although the participants of the stress eating study were trying to eat healthy and maintain a healthy lifestyle, scientists found that after the participants were put under stress, they chose to eat the unhealthy food.

With the end of summer around the corner, dieters still have a chance to lose weight and still enjoy their food. The way to do this is to use the right food combinations to satisfy hunger.

As reported by DNA Analysis, the researchers discovered that stress actually alters the brain chemistry to influence self control. Investigators determined that even a moderate amount of stress led to lack of self control.

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According to senior author Todd Hare, moderate stressors are an even bigger problem than extreme stress.

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“This is important because moderate stressors are more common than extreme events and will thus influence self-control choices more frequently and for a larger portion of the population.”

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Although stressful situations are inevitable, stress eating is not. The key to reducing and preventing stress eating is exercise. Yoga is one exercise that can be used for a stress buster to help prevent stress levels from increasing.

Avoiding stress, eating a proper diet, and drinking adequate amounts of water also help to avoid stress eating. Since stress is an important factor in diabetes, avoiding stress and stress eating may also help to avoid diabetes.

[Photo Credit: Shutterstock]

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