When stressed out, so many of us resort to emotional eating. Alas, comfort food can lead to weight gain which can further increase problems. What’s worse is that a new study has found that eating high-calorie foods during stress has even more detrimental impacts on weight. As per this research stress and an unhealthy diet combined together cause more weight gain.
What Does This New Study Reveal?
A new study which has been conducted on a mice model says that eating high-calorie foods when stressed out leads to more weight gain than when the same foods are eaten in a stress-free environment. Most people up their food consumption, particularly that of high calorie foods, when they are stressed out.
To learn more about stress eating, researchers from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research looked at different brain areas of mice. Food intake is primarily controlled by a part of the brain called the hypothalamus while another part of the brain called amygdala is responsible for controlling emotional responses.
Scientists found that standing at the center of this weight gain due to eating high-calorie foods when under stress, stood a molecule called NPY which is produced in response to stress. Researchers found that when the production of this molecule was switched off in the amygdala, weight gain went down. This shows that stress, obesity and the NYP molecule share a link.
Researchers then analyzed the nerve cells which produced NYP and found that the amygdala had receptors for insulin, which is a hormone that plays a part in controlling food consumption. The study reached to the conclusion that while chronic stress alone didn’t raise blood insulin markers by much, stress combined with a high-calorie diet raised insulin levels by 10 times.
This study, which has been published in the Cell Metabolism journal, further found that prolonged high levels of insulin in the amygdala caused nerve cells to desensitize to insulin which halted them from detecting insulin. This boosted the levels of NPY which increased eating and altered the body’s normal energy burning process.
Therefore, it was said that stress combined with high-calorie foods increased weight more than eating high-calorie foods in a stress-free environment. “It’s becoming more and more clear that insulin doesn’t only impact peripheral regions of the body, but that it regulates functions in the brain. We’re hoping to explore these effects further in future,” said Professor Herbert Herzog who is the head of the Eating Disorders laboratory of the Garvan institute.
A new research reveals the huge role insulin plays in the brain department. The hormone has receptors in the amygdala that enable it to boost the production of NYP, a molecule that is linked to obesity and stress. Hence, eating comfort foods without being stressed doesn’t trigger as much weight gain as when junk food is consumed under stress.