Why Stress Makes Us Want to Eat

When you’re stressed or depressed, does that bag of Cheetos or little chocolate doughnuts call out to you? Why do we seem to crave higher fat foods when our anxiety level is high? New research clearly demonstrates a link between stress and the consumption of higher fat foods, thus leading to weight gain.

Stress makes us produce more ghrelin, a hormone that spreads in the stomach. In a recent study, stress was shown to cause mice to produce more ghrelin. While this increase in ghrelin helps to lower their stress, it simultaneously triggers a shift in appetite toward more calorie-rich foods. This hunger lead the mice to overeat and over time become obese.

Mice not exposed to any stress, however, stuck to their normal diet. It was found that the stressed mice released more ghrelin hormone when compared to the non-stressed mice. When given ghrelin injections, the non-stressed mice also chose high fat foods and gained weight.

The research demonstrates that ghrelin signals receptors in brain that triggers the consumption of fatty foods. The mice, even if they were stressed but didn’t have any functioning ghrelin receptors, did not consume high calorie foods and were not overweight. For the first time, scientists were able to manipulate ghrelin receptors to prove this correlation between stress and obesity.

The mouse model helps us understand the association between human stress and obesity. Excessive stress is correlated with an increase in obesity in human populations all over the world. Based on this research, we can explore any possible connection between stress and drug addictions in human as well. This research may prove helpful in investigating the involvement of hormones in stress-induced eating and assist us in developing drugs to curb these potentially detrimental behaviors.

Here are some tips to minimize stress and depression while keeping your waistline trim.

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