Many middle-age women regularly describe feeling stressed. Whether it’s emerging health issues, financial woes, concerns about retirement, dealing with aging parents or coming to terms with our empty nests, we’re in one of the most stressful times of our lives. And a new study suggests that some of our dietary choices in dealing with these stressful times can really come back to haunt us through a slower metabolism and weight gain.
The study out of Ohio State University involved 58 women who were, on average, 53 years of age. These participants agreed to participate in two assessments that each consisted of a daylong analysis at the university’s Clinical Research Center. All of the participants were given three standardized meals to eat on the day prior to each daylong assessment. Additionally, the participants were instructed to fast for 12 hours before reporting for the assessment.
During the day-long assessment, the researchers used a questionnaire to ask participants about the stress they experienced on the previous day, as well to assess symptoms of depression as well as physical activity levels. Thirty-one participants said they had experienced at least one stressful event on the day prior to the visit while 21 reported that they had experienced at least one stressful event on the days prior to both visits. The researchers found that most of the stressful incidents involved interpersonal issues with spouses, children, friends or coworkers or work-related pressures. Only six women reported that they had not experienced any stress.
The researchers gave the participants a meal consisting of eggs, turkey sausage, biscuits and gravy and asked the women to finish the meal within 20 minutes. This meal contained 930 calories as well as 60 grams of fat. The researchers pointed out that this meal is the equivalent to a loaded two-patty hamburger and an order of French fries. The participants then had their metabolic rate measured to determine how fast they burnt off the calories and fat. In addition, measures of triglycerides, insulin and the stress hormone cortisol also were assessed.
The researchers found that participants who had described having one or more stressors during the previous day actually burned 104 fewer calories in the seven hours following eating the high-fat meal than participants who didn’t describe feeling stressed. That difference could result in gaining 11 pounds annually.
During the study, researchers gave the participants a meal that was high in saturated fat during one daylong assessment; the meal at the other assessment was high in sunflower oil, a monounsaturated fat that is associated with health benefits. Interestingly, the analysis found that both of these meals slowed metabolism in women who recently experienced stress. The study also determined that depression combined with the previous stressors resulted in a higher immediate increase in triglycerides (which are considered a risk for cardiovascular disease) after the meal.
So what are the takeaways from this study? Here are some suggestions:
- It’s really easy to run by the local fast food restaurant to grab a meal, snack or treat when we’re feeling stressed. But this study reiterates why this choice can be problematic and why menopausal women need to focus on healthy food choices. “We know we can’t always avoid stressors in our life, but one thing we can do to prepare for that is to have healthy food choices in our refrigerators and cabinets so that when those stressors come up, we can reach for something healthy rather than going to a very convenient but high-fat choice,” said Dr. Martha Belury, a professor of human nutrition and co-author of the study.
- Practice stress management. Try yoga, tai chi, focused breathing exercises, deep muscle relaxation exercises and massage to ease stress.
This study links diet and stress, providing great insight on a menopausal woman’s metabolism. The research findings offer middle-age women a game plan on ways to avoid slowing our metabolism through making healthy food choices, especially during times of stress.
Primary Source for This Sharepost:
Caldwell, E. (2014). Weight issue: Stress and high-fat meals combine to slow metabolism in women. Ohio State University.
NHS Choices. (2013). Relaxation tips to relieve stress.
Published On: July 21, 2014