Research conducted at Ohio State University, U.S have found that in contrast to popular belief, stress reduces metabolic rate and could contribute to a weight gain of up to 11lbs per year.
After serving an all-female group a meal of 930 calories and 60 grams of fat, the researchers measured their metabolic rate and noted down their levels of insulin, blood sugar, triglycerides and stress hormone, cortisol.
The women – whose average age was 53 – were also asked to talk about any stresses they encountered the previous day.
The results showed that the women who experienced at least one stressful event burned 104 less calories than those who were stress-free.
Significantly, the women who were stressed also showed higher levels of insulin – a hormone that contributes to the storage of fat.
Jan Kiecolt-Glaser – lead author of the study and professor of psychiatry and psychology at The Ohio State University – said of the findings:
“We know from data that we are likely to eat the wrong foods when we are stressed, and our data say that when we eat the wrong foods, weight gain becomes more likely because we are burning fewer calories.”
Although there is extensive research into the effects of stress on people’s weight, this study highlights how making the wrong food choices can impact our metabolism.
It also looked into depression and whether a history of depression made a difference to metabolic rate. The results concluded that it does not, but when combined with stress, fat content in the blood was shown to rise sharply.
Co-author of the study, Martha Belury concluded:
“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.”
If you feel that your stress levels are too high, you might want to consider taking some time out and dedicating it to complementary therapies such as massage and reflexology. These can help to restore calm, inner peace and alleviate stress symptoms.
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