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Combination Of Stress And High-Fat Meals Slows Metabolism In Women

Update Date: Jul 14, 2014 10:58 AM EDT

Experiencing one or more stressful events the day before eating a single high-fat meal can slow the body's metabolism in women, eventually leading to weight gain, according to a recent study. 

According to study estimates, the daily effect could add up to nearly 11 pounds in a year. 

The study noted that the stressed women also had higher levels of insulin, which contributes to the storage of fat and less fat oxidation. Fat oxidation is the conversion of large fat molecules into smaller molecules that can be used as fuel. 

"This means that, over time, stressors could lead to weight gain," said Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology at The Ohio State University and lead author of the study in the press release. "We know from other data that we're more likely to eat the wrong foods when we're stressed, and our data say that when we eat the wrong foods, weight gain becomes more likely because we are burning fewer calories."

Earlier researches had shown that people who experience stress and other mood disruptions are at higher risk of becoming overweight or obese. Researchers said the findings of the present study appears to illustrate at least one mechanism behind that connection. 

"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 Kiecolt-Glaser, also director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine at Ohio State.

Researchers underscored the fact that findings also offer one more motivation to keep healthful foods nearby. 

"We know we can't always avoid stressors in our life, but one thing we can do to prepare for that is to have healthy food choices in our refrigerators and cabinets so that when those stressors come up, we can reach for something healthy rather than going to a very convenient but high-fat choice," said Martha Belury, professor of human nutrition at Ohio State and a co-author of the study, in the press release.

The research is published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

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