How Stress Undermines the Benefits of a Healthy Diet

How Stress Undermines the Benefits of a Healthy Diet

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that problems related to stress has now reached to an alarming stage. In today’s fast-paced life, factors like work pressure, ruined relationship or even a lifestyle-related health condition can lead to stress. Also, being under some situations for long may aggravate the condition.

Stress may cause severe damages that we usually underestimate. As mentioned by Dr. Andrew Weil, the grave fact is that it is really tough to escape from stress, whose consequences are extremely bad and long lasting.

According to a study led by Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, director of the Ohio State Institute for Behavioral Medicine, stress can significantly ruin the benefits of consuming a healthy diet. The researchers at the Ohio State University investigated the impact of stress on the health benefits of food rich in unsaturated fatty acids and compared it with the food high in saturated fat content.[1]

For the study, 58 women were selected and asked to choose any of the two types of breakfast. The breakfast included biscuits, gravy, turkey sausage and eggs and was customized to imitate a typical junk food meal; offering 60 grams of fat and 930 calories.


After the breakfast, the women underwent a blood examination to estimate the levels of two major biomarkers of inflammation – serum amyloid A and C-reactive protein. These two are predictors of plaque formation in arteries. The test results were worst for unstressed women,who consumed saturated fat-rich breakfast than their counterparts, who consumed breakfast high in monounsaturated fat. However, the positive effect of the second breakfast found to disappear in women, who were in stress a day before or just before the breakfast.

Through a questionnaire, the participants were assessed for their stress levels just before the breakfast. They were asked about their previous day events. For the study, only major episodes of stress were taken into consideration, while avoiding minor or short phases of stress like handling a dementia patient or removing off the paint from the floor, spilled by a child.

The researchers noted that results could serve as a finding that instead of focusing on the consequences of stress, people should pay more attention on choosing a healthy diet, so that they can curb the effects of inflammation whenever they are in stress.

How Chronic Inflammation and Stress are Related?

Studies have revealed that stress is linked to the body’s ability in controlling inflammatory responses. Stress decline the inflammatory responses associated with repairing mechanism of your body system. Whenever you catch a cold, your body experiences inflammation in the form of fever and thus, fights against the infection by increasing your body temperature.

However, this kind of inflammation is different from chronic one, which destroys the balance in your body. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, long-term chronic inflammation can lead to many serious, age-related issues like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and depression.

Dr. Weil opines that globally, most people spend their lives in the pro-inflammatory state as a consequence of their regular dietary habits. However, food habits aren’t alone to be blamed. Chronic inflammation is also caused by several other factors, such as genetics, idle lifestyle, environmental conditions, use of toxins like tobacco, alcohol and recreational drugs, and last but not the least, excessive stress.

How to Overcome Stress?

An unhealthy meal will always affect your health adversely if you are suffering from stress. Your body processes and absorbs nutrients in a different way when you are stressed. In such cases, you must ensure to consume a healthy diet, comprising fiber, fruits and vegetable that can reduce inflammation. It should be noted that inflammation builds over time and can increase the chances of various diseases.

Dr. Weil mentions in his blog that choosing natural diet over refined, processed and manufactured food will be very beneficial for reducing the effect of chronic inflammation due to stress. This will, in turn, give you the advantage to escape from inflammation whenever you encounter stress.

Besides eating healthy food, stress can also be overcome by doing certain exercises. You can take a simple walk before or after work. Including yoga and meditation in your daily routine can also be beneficial. Aroma therapy or listening for a soothing music are among other ways to manage stress.

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