Stress Can Add Calories

Our lives are full of deadlines, demands, disappointments, and defeats. It’s no wonder so many people turn to comfort foods for a little relief.

A little stress is a good thing. It keeps us motivated and on our toes, but when it gets out of control it can affect our health.Chronic stress is different. It interrupts nearly every body system. It can increase blood pressure, up the risk of heart attack and stroke, and suppress the immune system among other things. And it can also contribute to weight gain.

A new study, conducted at Ohio State University’s Clinical Research Center, suggests that stressful events have an effect on the body’s metabolism that leads to weight gain. And if that person has a history of depression, the ultimate weight gain will be even worse.

Women who reported experiencing some type of stressor the day before the study burned 104 fewer calories on average than women who said they had not experienced any particular stress. Over the course of a year that is the equivalent of a weight gain of nearly 11 pounds.

“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,” Martha Belury, a co-author of the study, said in a statement.

So what’s a person to do when they are faced with stressful events? Belury, a professor of nutrition, suggests stocking the refrigerator and kitchen cabinets with healthy food choices to reach for in times of stress.

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Fresh or canned fruit, raw vegetables with hummus dip, nuts, lowfat yogurt, fat-free popcorn, baked tortilla chips and salsa, and string cheese are all convenient foods with a nutritional punch that won’t wreck your diet when your stress level peaks.

The study was published in Biological Psychiatry.

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