Kirstin Aschbacher, PhD, an assistant professor in the UC San Francisco Department of Psychiatry and lead author, said chronic stress can influence biology in a big way.
Researchers from UCSF said that people with less stress fall in low health risk category even if they consume unhealthy diet, compared to those with chronic stress.
"Many people think a calorie is a calorie, but this study suggests that two women who eat the same thing could have different metabolic responses based on their level of stress. There appears to be a stress pathway that works through diet."
According to researchers, this is the first study to suggest that chronic stress and unhealthy diet in humans can together cause metabolic disorders.
The scientists picked up 61 disease-free women, out of which 33 were chronically stressed as they had to take care of a spouse or parent with dementia, while 28 were women with low stress. During one year, the women enlisted their consumption of high-sugar, high-fat foods.
"We found that more frequent high fat, high sugar consumption significantly predicted a larger waistline, more truncal fat, higher oxidative damage, and more insulin resistance, but only among the group of women exposed to chronic stress," said Aschbacher.
She added, "The medical community is starting to appreciate how important chronic stress is in promoting and worsening early disease processes."