Stress causes inflammation in the body that is thought to override the benefits of healthy food choices.
An interesting new study suggests being in a state of stress can undo the benefits of your healthy food choices.
The team from Ohio State University led by Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, found people who consciously chose to eat a nutritious breakfast containing healthy fats were stripped of the benefits and nutrients of that breakfast if stress was experienced the day before.
The study shows the effect of stress on inflammation within the body that can encourage heart disease, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis – this is already known – but the effect stress has on negating healthy food choices is a new breakthrough for the team.
“Inflammation is now looking like it’s associated with a lot of the nasty diseases of aging,” Kiecolt-Glaser said. “It’s like a catalog of what you don’t want in your life.”
The study focused on women with the average age of 53 and whether their diet consisted of unsaturated fats or saturated fats. The group of female participants all had identical breakfasts but were asked about their previous day – in particular how much stress they experienced. Any stress that was deemed serious enough to cause physiological changes was considered a stressful day.
The stress-free women obviously did well in blood tests taken after eating breakfast with lower levels of inflammatory markers but those who had had hardships the previous day showed high levels of inflammation and negated the goodness from a healthy breakfast.
Kiecolt-Glaser says they are not sure if “a bad reaction to stress overwhelms the potential benefits of a healthy meal, or if it could be that the stress itself alters the body’s processing of the meal.”
Despite the findings, the team recommends that it is always good to opt for a healthy and nutritious diet since the body can still work better against stress in this way compared to a bad diet full of saturated fats.
Details of the study were published in Nature’s journal Molecular Psychiatry.