Feeding Your Stress

Whether it's a heavy workload at the office or trying to make the cut on a very competitive sports team, everyone has to deal with stress at some point. Scientists from Emory University wanted to see how stress affected diet, so they offered rhesus macaques a diet of high-fat and low-fat foods for a period of 21 days each.

Macaques maintain a social structure that subjects subordinate animals to a psychologically stressful environment. The dominant primates consumed significantly less of the low-fat and high-fat diets, and restricted their eating to daytime hours. The subordinate primates ate at all hours and consumed significantly more than their socially dominant counterparts. This resulted in accelerated weight gain along with an increase in fat-derived hormones.

The Bigger Picture: While the social structure of these macaques is different from humans, it's quite common for humans to respond to stress in the same ways as these primates. Whether we're subconsciously rewarding ourselves for getting through it remains to be seen. What's important is realizing that unhealthy overeating can be an unwanted byproduct of everyday stress.
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