Stress and fatty diet leads to high insulin levels, slow metabolism in women

Stressful lifestyles combined with high-fat food choices could lead women with a sluggish metabolism, according to researchers at Ohio State University.

On average, their study found, women who had reported one or more stressors during the previous 24-hour period burned 104 fewer calories than non-stressed women in the seven hours following a high-fat meal.

Stressed women also showed higher levels of insulin, which contributes to fat storage and the development of diabetes.

These caloric and metabolic differences, researchers said, could result in weight gain of almost 11 pounds per year for women that are stressed.

Stress and weight gain

Other studies have shown people who experience more stress are at a higher risk for weight gain, but this new study suggests that eating the wrong foods, particularly fat, combined with a stressful lifestyle can exacerbate the problem.

And given the high-fat meal used in the study had a nutritional profile similar to an average fast food meal, meal choices for the average woman on the go may be more important if that woman is also experiencing stress.

"This is not an extraordinary meal compared to what many of us would grab when we're in a hurry and out getting some food," said lead author Jan Kiecolt-Glaser.

Interestingly, the type of fat women in the study ate (saturated vs. unsaturated fat) didn't seem to matter.

"We suspected that the saturated fat would have a worse impact on metabolism in women, but in our findings, both high-fat meals consistently showed the same results in terms of how stressors could affect their energy expenditure," said co-author Martha Belury, professor of human nutrition at Ohio State.

Insulin and depression

Stressed women had insulin spikes soon after the high-fat meal was consumed, which dropped to match the insulin levels of the non-stressed women about 90 minutes after the spikes, researchers said.

Depression also seemed to cause more health problems in stressed women.

"With depression, we found there was an additional layer," Kiecolt-Glaser said. "In women who had stress the day before and a history of depression, triglycerides after the meal peaked the highest. The double whammy of past depression as well as daily stressors was a really bad combination."

Findings of the study are published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

Source: Ohio State University
Image courtesy of jesadaphorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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