Cortisol responsiveness and dietary patterns play a key role in the relationship between daily stress and snacking behavior, new research suggests. Psychoneuroendocrinology. The findings suggest that people’s physiological responses to stress can influence their food choices and patterns.

“It’s well known that many people eat more unhealthy foods when they’re stressed, which can affect their health in the long run,” said study author Daryl O’Connor, from the University of Leeds. Laboratory for stress and health research.

“However, little is known about the complex relationship between stress and diet in adolescents and young adults. So this study aimed to examine the types of stress associated with unhealthy snacking and to understand the role of cortisol, a key stress hormone, in order to understand who is more vulnerable to stress-causing foods.” We want to explore.

The study included a total of 123 participants who were recruited from local schools and universities. Among them, 59 participants were adolescents (16-18 years old) and 64 participants were young adults.

The participants completed the modified version Trier social stress test. Participants were tested in groups and asked to prepare a speech to convince a panel of experts why they were the best candidate for the job. They are also given a series of subtraction tasks. These activities are designed to stimulate the subjective and neuroendocrine stress response.

Saliva samples were collected from the participants at four different times before and after the stress to measure cortisol levels. The samples were frozen to maintain stability, and cortisol levels were determined using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay kit.

The samples were used to assess cortisol reactivity, which indicates how the hormone responds to stress or challenging situations. Cortisol is released by the adrenal glands in response to stress and plays a role in regulating metabolism, immunity and other processes.

Participants then completed a baseline questionnaire that included demographic information and dietary patterns measured using the Dutch Eating Behavior Questionnaire (DEBQ). A questionnaire was used to assess restrained, impulsive, and externalizing eating behaviors.

Participants were asked to complete online daily diaries for 14 consecutive days after the test date. They record their daily stressors and what they eat between snacks. The researchers collected 1,196 personal diary entries.

Participants reported experiencing an average of 1.63 stressors per day, with work/academic stressors being the most common, followed by physical stressors. The researchers found that daily self-reported stress was positively associated with daily snacking, but not with fruit and vegetables.

“Daily stressors are associated with increased unhealthy eating in adolescents and young adults. Therefore, it’s important to know whether small daily stressors, as well as big stressors, can trigger high-fat consumption,” O’Connor told PsyPost.

Emotional and extrinsic eating styles mediated the relationship between daily reported stress and total snacking. Elevated emotional eating moderated the effect of stress on snack consumption, corresponding to a stronger relationship between emotional eating stress and snacking. A similar pattern was observed for the external diet pattern.

“Adolescents and young adults with higher levels of eating behaviors known as emotional eating (i.e., tending to eat more when one is anxious or upset) and extrinsic eating (i.e., tending to eat in response to external triggers, such as olfactory and visual cues) have daily On stressful days, they are more likely to eat unhealthy foods,” O’Connor explained.

Interestingly, the researchers found that stress was associated with snacking in individuals with low and moderate cortisol reactivity, but this association was not seen in individuals with high cortisol reactivity.

People with higher cortisol activity ate similar amounts of snacks on both low and high stress days. This suggests that in people with a strong stress response, any stressor, regardless of severity, can affect their eating behavior.

“Individual differences in the rate of cortisol release in response to stressors were associated with stress-induced eating,” O’Connor told PsyPost.

The researchers recommend examining other aspects of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis function that are involved in the body’s stress response to gain a more comprehensive understanding of stress-related eating mechanisms.

“Future research should examine stress-eating associations in adolescent and young adults and examine whether these effects carry over into adulthood and the implications for future overweight and obesity,” O’Connor said. “We also need to explore the effects on our cortisol profiles (eg, not just in response to stress, but the cortisol levels we release in the morning and throughout the day) and see if they are related to stress-related food exposure.”

The study “Daily stress and eating behaviors in adolescent and young adults: Examining the role of cortisol stimulation and eating patterns.“By Deborah Hill, Mark Conner, Matt Bristow, and Darryl B. O’Connor wrote.

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