Stress can have a variety of effects on your body, including canceling out the benefits of a healthy diet, NPR reports.
According to a study published in Molecular Psychiatry, your healthy food selections may be overridden by stress.
Researchers worked with 58 female participants. These participants took a survey to assess their stress and went through a “meal challenge.” During the meal challenge, the participants ate different types of meals on different days.
These meals were different in their level of perceived healthiness. The less-healthy meal contained high levels of saturated fat, which is linked to cardiovascular disease. The healthier meal contained high levels of plant-based oil.
“When women were not stressed and they got the healthier meal, their inflammatory responses were lower than when they had the high saturated fat meal,” study author Janice Kiecolt-Glaser said.
While that may not surprise you, the following might:
“If a woman was stressed on a day when she got the healthy meal,” Kielcol-Glaser continued, “she looked like she was eating the saturated fat meal in terms of her [inflammation] responses.”
Basically, a healthy meal doesn’t help reduce the inflammation that often comes with stress.
Per the survey results, these participants were not experiencing life-threatening stress – they were experiencing mostly everyday stress that makes us feel out of control. Examples of the stress they were undergoing include childcare or taking care of an elderly parent.
While there is still much that is unknown and should be further studied, this research provides even more indications of the harmful impacts stress can have on our health.