Research may suggest a link between stress and what we choose to eat.
Read-on to find out more…
Many people in today’s society resort to ‘stress’ eating, i.e. emotional eating.
Chocolate, chips and crisps have all been implicated in stress overeating and most junk foods have been used for such purposes; however foods such as blueberries or broccoli are rarely eaten as comfort foods!
Chronic stress can lead to habitual stress eating of unhealthy foods, which in turn leads to weight gain and then possibly to obesity, diabetes and a host of other health problems.
Up until recently, the biomedical research field has been unable to provide any corroborating scientific evidence, but recently the National Academy of Sciences published a paper documenting the effects caused by changes to the gene Urocortin-3 (Ucn3).
Ucn3 is produced in certain brain cells during times of stress and is known to play a role in regulating the body’s stress response.
Researchers were able to increase the amount of Ucn3 in certain areas of the brains of mice. The results of these Ucn3 increases were twofold; anxiety-related behaviour increased, while at the same time their metabolism changed.
Specifically, the mice burned more sugars and less fatty acids and their metabolic rates increased. An increase in metabolism is usually considered a good thing for weight loss, but not in this case.
This change in metabolism didn’t necessarily change the amount of food that the mice were ingesting, just their food preferences. Rather than eating a healthy balanced diet, the stress-induced metabolic changes caused them to choose sugary food.
Sugars are good if needing quick bursts of energy in order to escape a physical danger, but they become a health issue if abused over the long term.
These mice in the study also started to show the first stage signs of type 2 Diabetes with decreased sensitivity to insulin, increased sugar levels in the blood and more insulin being produced by their pancreas.
The research findings link stress to metabolic syndromes, especially diabetes and obesity.
A warning to us in all these stressful times!