Stress and Your Health: 2 New Studies

man_writingOften when we hear the word stress we think about things like a hectic day at work or an argument with a loved one, but there are actually many different types of stress. Stress is how your brain reacts to a specific stimulus or situation, and that reaction can trigger changes in your body—which can be good or bad. Below are two new studies that seek to better understand how stress impacts our overall health.

Eating Triggers Stress Hormone in Overweight & Obese Men
Even the simple act of eating puts a certain amount stress on the body, but having a few extra pounds may actually increase that amount. Researchers in Australia recently found that men with more body fat have a higher stress response after eating, which may translate to long-term health risks.

For the purpose of the study 36 men over 50 were asked to eat an average lunch consisting of 22% protein, 53% carbs, and 25% fat, after which researchers measured their levels of the stress hormone cortisol. When compared with their leaner counterparts, men who were even moderately overweight or obese had higher cortisol levels, which study author Dr. Anne Turner said may significantly impact their health over time.

“If overweight or obese men’s bodies react this way after every meal, they may be at increased risk of developing stress-related chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome in the long term,” said Dr. Turner.

Stress and Anxiety May Impact Liver Health
Think you liver is safe from stress? Think again. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland found that frequent stress and anxiety can increase the risk of liver disease and may lead to a shorter lifespan. The association between increased stress and liver health was seen even when factors such as diet, weight, and alcohol and tobacco use were taken into account. While Dr. Tom Russ and his team agree further study is needed to explore the relationship, he speculated there may be an underlying link such as inflammation.

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Why Adding “Added Sugars” to Food Labels May Be Tricky

nutrition_labelSoon the packaged foods and beverages you buy will feature a revised Nutrition Facts Panel (NFP) intended to provide clearer information about things like ingredients, daily values, and serving sizes. The goal is to help Americans make healthier choices about what they eat, but one of the proposed changes—if implemented—may have the opposite effect.

The International Food Information Council (IFIC) recently conducted an online survey of more than 1,000 adults to determine whether or not including a line for “Added Sugars” on the new NFP would be beneficial, but researchers believe the distinction may cause more confusion than clarification. That’s because many consumers are still unclear about what added sugars really are.

The term added sugars refers to the sugar added to processed foods and beverages as they are being made. This includes natural sugars (such as honey and fruit sugar) as well as processed sugars such as high-fructose corn syrup. Added sugars have no nutritional value and have been linked to health risks such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Even with the distinction, survey results indicated that consumers—even those who said they typically read NFPs—still had a hard time accurately identifying how much sugar was in each product. Many were also unsure about whether or not the sugars in an “Added Sugars” line were included in the total amount of sugar for a product (currently listed as just “Sugars”).

As we await the impending label changes, this new survey spotlights the need to improve public education about added sugars and the dangers of a high-sugar diet. “Consumer understanding of added sugars on the Nutrition Facts Panel is limited,” said study co-author Marianne Smith Edge, who believes better education is critical to help people make informed choices about their diet and health.

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