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Chronic stress increases risk for diet associated metabolic risk

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Chronic stress creates terribly uncomfortable feelings of distress. Chronic stress also increases vulnerability to diet associated metabolic risk reported the University of California San Fransisco on April 29, 2014. A new study at UC San Francisco is the first which has demonstrated that highly stressed people who eat a lot of high-fat, high-sugar food are at a higher risk to health risks than low-stress people who consume the same amount of unhealthy food.

Kirstin Aschbacher, PhD, the lead author of this study has said that chronic stress can play an important role in influencing biology, and it’s very important to understand the exact pathways via which it works. Aschbacher explains that two people who eat the same thing could have different metabolic responses based on their level of stress. Metabolic syndrome consists of a cluster of abnormalities including increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. Metabolic syndrome increases a person’s risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

This study has been published online in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology. The researchers found that chronic stress increases vulnerability to diet associated abdominal fat, oxidative stress, and metabolic risk. Preclinical studies have shown that the combination of chronic stress and a high sugar/fat diet has a significantly more potent effect on visceral adiposity than diet alone.

The researchers studied a human model of chronic stress to determine whether the synergistic combination of highly palatable foods (HPF), consisting of high sugar and fat, and stress, was associated with elevated metabolic risk. It was observed that among chronically stressed women greater HPF consumption was associated with increased abdominal adiposity, oxidative stress, and insulin resistance at baseline. Furthermore, plasma peripheral Neuropeptide Y (NPY) was significantly increased in chronically stressed women. It was seen that the association of HPF with abdominal adiposity was stronger in women with high versus low NPY.

The researchers concluded chronic stress is associated with increased vulnerability to diet associated metabolic risk including abdominal adiposity, insulin resistance, and oxidative stress. It is believed stress induced peripheral NPY may play a mechanistic role in this finding. It therefore appears wise to not only work to control your diet, but to also try to protect yourself from too much stress in order to help lessen metabolic risk.

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