Stress May Wipe Out Benefits of Healthy Meals

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When women deal with a stressful event, it can essentially cancel out the health benefits of so-called "good" fat.

Try not to stress out over this news: Researchers have discovered yet another way that stress may harm our health.

A study out of Ohio State University found that when women deal with a stressful event, it can essentially cancel out the health benefits of so-called “good” fats those women eat after the stressor.

The findings were published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry this week.

The study is the first to show that stress has this potential, according to lead researcher Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, a professor of psychiatry and psychology and director of OSU’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine.

For the study, the participants — 58 women with an average age of 53 — visited OSU on two different days.

During the visits, the women were randomly assigned to eat one of two breakfasts.

Both meals were high in calories (930) and fat (60 grams) because they were designed to mimic a typical fast-food meal. The breakfasts differed in that one was what OSU describes as “high in less-healthy saturated fat from palm oil” while one was “higher in healthier unsaturated fat from a sunflower oil high in oleic acid.”

The women were also questioned about their previous day to determine whether they were stressed.

The types of events that researchers considered significant stressors include:

  • Having to clean up paint a child spilled all over the floor
  • Struggling to help a parent with dementia who was resisting help

Kiecolt-Glaser describes them as “not life-shattering events” but “not of the hangnail variety either.”

When women reported no significant stress before a visit and ate the “bad-fat” meal, researchers found more indications of inflammation than when the unstressed women at the “good-fat” meal, as the researchers expected.

But for women who experienced significant stress before one or both visits — which was the vast majority of participants — the difference disappeared.

Kiecolt-Glaser tells HealthDay that the stressed women who ate a good-fat meal “physiologically looked like they’d eaten the high-saturated-fat meal.”

She continues:

“If they were stressed, it wiped out all the good stuff.”

What do you make of news like this? Share your thoughts below or on Facebook.

Stacy Johnson

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