How Stress Affects How You Eat

Stress could make a high-fat, high-sugar diet even more damaging to your wellbeing: Highly stressed women who have poor nutrition habits are more prone to health risks than low-stress women who eat the same amount of unhealthy food.

That’s the finding of research reported in the journal Psychoneuroendrocrinology, which found that your body’s metabolic response to fat and sugar may differ according to your stress levels. The study looked at 61 disease-free women, more than half of whom were chronically stressed, caring for a loved one. The remaining women had calmer lives.

Both groups reported eating high-sugar, high-fat foods over the course of a year, and both were evaluated for biological markers for metabolic syndrome–abnormalities including insulin resistance, waistline measurement and visceral fat distribution–that increase the risk for heart attack, stroke and diabetes. Stressed women had more of the markers than their counterparts who ate poorly but weren’t stressed.

Even though it may be tempting to soothe yourself with your favorite foods when you’re stressed out, give your body a break by opting for healthier choices.