If you find yourself reaching for the biscuit tin, searching in the treats cupboard, or raiding the kiddies’ sweetie stash when you come home from work feeling stressed – and need to find an antidote that calms you down, quickly! – it will come as little surprise that researchers have found that eating sugar is one of the best stress relievers around.
You can read on ‘Women’s Doctor’ that sweets relieve stress – but you can of course try to substitute sugar for healthier alternatives. However, the answer may not be as simple as that. Body fat can have an effect on the way the brain responds to stress and metabolism, according to a University of Florida study.
The research found that: “Stress causes a desire to eat more, which can lead to obesity. And too much extra fat can impair the body’s ability to send a signal to the brain to shut off the stress response.” So, stress isn’t just in the brain after all.
This is a new finding in this field, where stress was generally thought to be an emotional response. Now that the ‘fat to brain pathway’ has been detected, researchers are going to look at those signals that prompt overeating in response to stress, and work out how those links can be recognised and broken – both ways.
Further articles on the link between stress, diet and emotion include:
- 10 ways your hectic lifestyle could be making you fat: the link and the link with (not) losing weight (from the Daily Mail, explaining some of the science around stress and weight gain, including emotional eating, appetites, cravings, impulses and triggers).
- Food and emotion: an academic paper on emotional eating and stress.
- Stress and eating: the psychological aspects.
- Can managing your stress help you lose weight?