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August 25, 2015 • Healthy Eating & Nutrition, Weight Control

Even Moderate, Brief Stress Can Sabotage Healthy Eating

brain springsIn a provocative new study designed to investigate how short periods of moderate stress affect dietary choices,  the consensus was clear–even a little stress can trip us up. For this laboratory-based evaluation, 29 study subjects, all committed to healthy eating,  were subjected to a moderate stressor (in this case  immersion of a hand in an ice water bath for 3 minutes) and then asked to choose between two food options. One food option was tastier, but less healthy and higher in calories while the other was less palatable, but healthier and lower in calories. A similar group of control study subjects underwent the same experiment, but without being exposed to the ice bath. Study subjects exposed to the ice bath were significantly more likely to choose the tastier and less healthy food option vs. the control study subjects not exposed to the brief stressor. And the results were visible in the stressed study subjects brains too. Special brain imaging tests performed during the study showed that activity in areas of the study subject’s brains involved in self-control were impaired and blunted after the ice bath stressor. (Neuron, 2015, 87(3))

While this study shows that even modest, brief stress can translate to poorer dietary choices, the good news is that studies show that we can do things that will make us more resilient and less prone to the perils of life’s day to day stressors. Click here to see them.