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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 #375877

Research Project: Improving Public Health by Understanding Metabolic and Bio-Behavioral Effects of Following Recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Location: Obesity and Metabolism Research

Title: Association between physiological stress load and diet quality patterns differs between male and female adults

item DIMITRATOS, SARAH - University Of California, Davis
item Hercules, Melanie
item Stephensen, Charles
item CERVANTES, EDUARDO - University Of California, Davis
item Laugero, Kevin

Submitted to: Physiology & Behavior
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/22/2021
Publication Date: 7/24/2021
Citation: Dimitratos, S., Hercules, M., Stephensen, C.B., Cervantes, E., Laugero, K.D. 2021. Association between physiological stress load and diet quality patterns differs between male and female adults. Physiology and Behavior. 240. Article 113538.

Interpretive Summary: Chronic mental stress is a known risk factor for hypertension, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disorders, type 2 diabetes, and neurological conditions. The reasons for this link between stress and chronic disease risk remain unknown, but the quality of a person’s diet may play a role. Moreover, level of risk for chronic disease can differ between men and women, and whether sex, age, or body weight status influences this possible relationship between diet, chronic stress, and disease risk is not fully understood. Our observational research study findings suggest that certain types of diet patterns affect a known marker of chronic stress, allostatic load, but that this association differs between men and women. Furthermore, sex-dependent variability in disease risk may be better understood when considering the connection between chronic stress and how well aligned one’s diet is with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Technical Abstract: A promising, yet relatively unexplored factor that may influence a person’s stress response, is diet. Diet can affect the physiological response to stress, but effects of diet quality on the chronic stress marker allostatic load (AL) are insufficiently studied. Furthermore, sex, age, and BMI may interact with diet quality to influence AL. 358 adults were recruited across predetermined sex, age, and BMI ranges. Cluster analysis of 13 Healthy Eating Index (HEI) sub-scores across all participants revealed six distinct diet quality patterns (HEI-P). We found sex and HEI-P interacted (PHEIxSex = 0.0232) to affect AL, reflecting a significantly different AL between women and men consuming a diet more closely aligned with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for dairy, refined grains, and sodium consumption, but less aligned for added sugar, saturated fat, and fruits/vegetables intake. Sex and HEI-P also interacted to affect cholesterol (PHEIxSex = 0.0157), norepinephrine (PHEIxSex = 0.0315), epinephrine (PHEIxSex = 0.0204), and systolic blood pressure (PHEIxSex = 0.0457) but, compared to total allostatic load, no individual component of this biomarker explained the entire array of sex by HEI-P interactions. Our results suggest that differences in HEI-P and sex interact to influence physiological stress load which, in turn, may help resolve discrepancies in diet and sex-related disease risk.