Ever found yourself munching furiously when stressed out, even if you are not hungry? Well, researchers have found that stress leads to excessive eating especially of sweets and high-fat foods and is one of the causes of obesity.
Some studies however indicate that eating excess carbohydrates may actually increase the amount of stress. Stress and a high carbohydrate diet together may increase the chances of obesity.
AdvertisementThe feeling of being rewarded by food is perceived by the brain in two forms, 'liking' and 'wanting.' 'Liking' refers to the pleasure derived through the oro-sensory stimulation of food. 'Wanting' on the other hand, refers to the appetite, craving or motivation to obtain the food.
A study was conducted on 19 men and 19 women to test the effect of two different types of food, high protein or high carbohydrate on stress-induced changes in mood, the perception of 'liking' or 'wanting' by the brain and post-meal energy intake.
The participants of the study were examined on 4 occasions. On one occasion, they underwent a stress session (by taking a stress-causing computer exam) and were then given a high-protein diet. In another session, they received stress session with a high-carbohydrate diet. In the remaining two sessions, they received a high-protein or a high-carbohydrate diet at rest without any stress.
Pre- and post-meal 'liking' and 'wanting' were tested using a computer test. Appetite profile was measured with visual analogue scales, mood changes were measured with the help of questionnaires and post-meal energy intakes were measured.
The participants were found to be depressed or anxious during stress. The high-protein intake, when compared to high-carbohydrate intake, reduced subsequent 'wanting' and energy intake at rest only in patients with high disinhibited eating behavior (Disinhibited eating behavior is when a person eats too quickly and is repeatedly unsuccessful during dieting). However, this effect disappeared during stress. In all other cases, the two diets had similar effects on stress-related mood and eating behavior.
Thus, the effect of diet on stress-related eating behavior is the same irrespective of the type of food, according to this study.
1. Lemmens SG et al. Lack of effect of high-protein vs. high-carbohydrate meal intake on stress-related mood and eating behavior. Nutrition Journal 2011, 10:136 doi:10.1186/1475-2891-10-136