Have you ever stopped for a cheeseburger on your way home from a stressful day at work? Or reached for a bag of greasy chips when the pressure was just too much? It turns out your waistline may have suffered the consequences—particularly if you’re a woman.
A new study out of Ohio State University reveals that women who load up on high-fat, high-calorie foods when stress levels are high actually burn fewer calories and increase their risk of weight gain over time. From what scientists could tell, stressful events caused a spike in insulin, which in turn caused the women to store more fat instead of using it as fuel.
The study involved nearly 60 middle-aged women, and each was questioned about her individual stress level before consuming a meal consisting of 930 calories and 60 grams of fat. The participants were then monitored for seven hours after the meal, and it was determined that the women who reported being stressed burned 104 fewer calories than those who weren’t—a difference that could result in almost 11 extra pounds a year, said researchers.
And when stressful events were combined with existing depression? Researchers found that blood triglyceride levels jumped even higher, putting the women at a greater risk for heart disease. Interestingly, the study results were the same in women who received a meal containing saturated fat and those who consumed a “healthier” version with high-oleic sunflower oil.
Said Ohio State nutritionist and study co-author Martha Belury, “We know we can’t always avoid stressors in our life, but one thing we can do to prepare for that is to have healthy food choices in our refrigerators and cabinets so that when those stressors come up, we can reach for something healthy rather than going to a very convenient but high-fat choice.”