Eating too much high-calorie food is anyway bad for health but under stress, sugary and high-fat diet can lead to more weight gain than in normal situations, says a study.
During an experiment on mice, the team discovered that a high-calorie diet when combined with stress resulted in more weight gain than the same diet caused in a stress-free environment.
“This study indicates that we have to be much more conscious about what we’re eating when we’re stressed, to avoid a faster development of obesity,” said Professor Herbert Herzog said, Head of the Eating Disorders laboratory at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in New South Wales (NSW).
According to the findings published in the journal-Cell Metabolism, some individuals eat less when they are stressed but most will increase their food intake — and crucially, the intake of calorie-dense food high in sugar and fat.
To understand what controls this ‘stress eating’, the researchers investigated different areas of the brain in mice.
While food intake is mainly controlled by a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, another part of the brain — the amygdala — processes emotional responses, including anxiety.
The scientists discovered that chronic stress alone raised the blood insulin levels only slightly but in combination with a high-calorie diet, the insulin levels were 10 times higher than mice that were stress-free and received a normal diet.
“We were surprised that insulin had such a significant impact on the amygdala,” said Professor Herzog.
“It’s becoming more and more clear that insulin doesn’t only impact peripheral regions of the body but that it regulates functions in the brain. We’re hoping to explore these effects further in future,” Herzog added.