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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Davis, California » Western Human Nutrition Research Center » Obesity and Metabolism Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #269949

Title: Stress and food intake: What's the deal with your meal?

item Laugero, Kevin

Submitted to: CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/14/2011
Publication Date: 11/20/2011
Citation: Laugero, K.D., Tryon, M.S. 2011. Stress and food intake: What's the deal with your meal?. CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources. doi: 10.1079/PAVSNNR20116034.

Interpretive Summary: The response to psychological stressors varies from person to person. This inter-individual variation in the stress response may contribute to differences in disease vulnerability. Psychological stress and the neuroendocrine (cortisol) reaction to stress are associated with mental and physical diseases, but the physiological basis for differences in cortisol reactivity and the link between stress, cortisol, and disease remain unknown. Stress and associated changes in circulating cortisol are also associated with poor diet and unhealthy food choices. Moreover, diet may influence the cortisol response to stress. Therefore, individual differences in cortisol reactions to stress may be explained in part by individual differences in diet and dietary patterns. The present article aimed to review and document the scientifically reported effects of macro- and micro-nutrient consumption on the cortisol response to stress. Secondarily, the article reflects on possible physiological mechanisms that mediate the effects of food intake on the neuroendocrine stress response.

Technical Abstract: Stress induces modification in both psychological and biological systems, which have been associated with the onset of illness. Many of these changes are mediated through the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the effects of its hormones. This review describes how the HPA response to psychological stress is affected by macro- and micro-nutrients, highlighting implications to stress-induced alterations in eating behavior. The interrelationship between nutrition and food choice is evident and the affect of foods and food constituents compounds neuroendocrine and related psychological processes regulating the adaptation to stress. The nutritional differences between individuals exposed to stress may help to explain person to person variability in vulnerability to stress and stress-related eating habits and disease. More longitudinal studies are needed to examine the effects of whole foods, specific dietary constituents, and dietary patterns on HPA responses to stress.