Stress is Just as Unhealthy as a Bad Diet, Study Shows

Stress is Just as Unhealthy as a Bad Diet
iStock/Eva Katalin Kondoros

Here’s another reason to take a deep breath and stress less. Studies have shown that stress can result in depression and anxiety, adrenal fatigue, and out of whack hormones. It can also influence your waistline, too.

A new study published in Nature Scientific Reports found that stress might be just as unhealthy to the gut microbiomeas a poor diet, influencing weight gain.

The study from Brigham Young University analyzed male and female mice fed both a normal diet and a high-fat, poor quality diet (made up of soybean oil, lard, sucralose, and casein, among other components) and routinely stressed.

“The results revealed distinct gender differences in the impacts of obesity and stress on anxiety-like behaviors, activity levels, and composition of the gut microbiota,” notes BYU professor of microbiology and molecular biology Laura Bridgewater.

Male mice fed a high-fat diet showed decreased movement and activity in response to stress, whereas female mice did not. “Male mice appeared to be more sensitive to the anxiogenic impact of the high-fat diet than were females,” as well. In other words, male mice had more anxiety as a result of their poor diet.

Stress in female mice fed a normal diet “caused the gut microbiota to more closely resemble the microbiota produced by long-term consumption of a high-fat diet, even though the female normal diet mice showed no weight gain,” the study notes.

“Male mice did not show the same effect, demonstrating gender-specific differences in the way the gut microbiota responds to a high-fat diet and to stress.”

What does this mean for stress and weight gain? The two may be correlated, at least according to this study.

Reduce stress and anxiety daily by exercising, going on walks, or practicing yoga and gentle movements. Meditation has also shown to improve wellbeing, reduce anxiety, and depression. Taking an Epsom salt bath is associated with decreased stress and practicing hygge and getting cozy reduces anxiety, too. Finally, getting a good night’s rest is imperative to stress reduction.

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Kate Gavlick is a nutritionist with a masters degree in nutrition. Hailing from Portland Oregon, and has a passion... More about Kate Gavlick