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Why stress makes us gain weight: A scientific explanation

by Daniel Kapsis, clinical dietitian - sports nutritionist

Stress leads to weight gain, and there seems to be tangible evidence for this. This happens not only because we tend to eat less healthy when we are in a state of stress, but also because stress seems to reduce metabolism. Researchers at Ohio State University in the US have published an article on this in Biological Psychiatry.

The researchers gave a group of 58 women, with an average age of 53, meals consisting of 60 grams of fat, 59 grams of carbohydrates and 36 grams of protein. They monitored the women's energy expenditure and levels of various markers in the blood for six hours. Half of the participants went through a period of high stress. After lunch, the rate of fat breakdown gradually increased, an increase that was less rapid in the women who had stress in their lives.

This practically means that stress does not allow us to efficiently metabolize the fats that we consume through our diet. In addition, women who were experiencing stress had higher triglyceride levels in their blood after eating. Finally, basal metabolic rate increases after a meal, with the rate falling a few hours later. The reduction in energy expenditure was faster in women who reported having experienced a stressful event the day before. All of these parameters taking place in a single day clearly do not have any noticeable effect on the body. However, in the long run, stress can be a cause of weight gain when all other physical activity and dietary parameters do not change.

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