New Study Finds Correlation Between Lowered Stress and Unhealthy Eating in Low-Income Mothers

Low-income, overweight mothers of young children ate fewer fast-food meals and high-fat snacks, according to a new study they participated in, not because the study told them not to, but because the lifestyle intervention they participated in lowered their stress.

The program was 16 weeks long and its goal was to prevent weight gain by promoting physical activity, healthy eating and stress management. The methods focused on time management and prioritizing tasks. Some of these were demonstrated in videos featuring mothers much like the study participants.

The videos used testimonies and demonstrated the women interacting with their families to help mothers identify stressors. Presumably because they have never lived another way, many of the participants said they never realized how high their stress level actually was.

Many also did not recognize the symptoms of head and neck pain, trouble sleeping and feeling impatient were all signs of stress.

When the study was analyzed the data determined that these women’s lowered perceived stress was a key factor in them eating less fast-food and high fat snacks.


OSU Scientists Unlock Relationship Between Stress, Anxiety and the Spleen

Researchers discovered that an abundance of white blood cells in the spleen can send messages to the brain which trigger behavioral changes after mice endure repetitious stress. The behavioral change comes in the form chronic anxiety. Researchers say that this study only reinforces the idea that the immune system is a relevant target for treatment of mental health conditions.

The goal of the study is to fully describe the relationship between the immune system and stress in animals that experience “repeated social defeat” so doctors may improve the well-being of patients who suffer from chronic psychological stress.

In this study, researchers determined that the immune cell changes persisted for almost a month after the mice experienced the stress. Stem cells move from the bone marrow to the spleen and become white blood cells, making it a reservoir of inflammatory cells which can cause anxiety and other cognitive problems. One researcher described the spleen’s reservoir of white blood cells as “stress memory”.

In their previous work, Ohio State researchers have documented an increased prevalence of long-term anxiety and depression in mice exposed to chronic stress, a model that has been compared to post-traumatic stress disorder in people.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

New OSU Research Suggests Stress Matters More Than Diet

This study is the first to show that stress has the potential to cancel out benefits of choosing healthier fats. The study comes from researchers at the Institute for Behavioral Medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Unstressed women who ate a biscuits-and-gravy breakfast made mostly with saturated fat fared worse in blood tests looking for precursors to disease than those women who ate an identical breakfast made primarily with monounsaturated sunflower oil.

But when women in the study had a stressful event before the breakfast test, the hardships of the previous day appeared to erase any benefits linked to the healthy fat choice, say researchers from The Ohio State University.

Minor irritants didn’t count as a stressful day. Stressors included having to clean up paint a child spilled all over the floor and struggling to help a parent with dementia who was resisting help.

This study leaves open questions about the connections between stress, fat source and healthier meals higher in fiber and fruits and vegetables and lower in calories, say Ohio State Researchers.

Ohio State Research Teams Links Stress to Memory Loss

This is the first study of its kind to establish the relationship between short-term memory and prolonged stress. In the case of the mice, that meant repeat visits from a larger, nasty intruder mouse. Sustained stress erodes memory, and the immune system plays a key role in the cognitive impairment, according to a new study from researchers at The Ohio State University.

Mice that were repeatedly exposed to the aggressive intruder had a hard time recalling where the escape hole was in a maze they’d mastered prior to the stressful period.

They also had measurable changes in their brains, including evidence of inflammation brought on by the immune system’s response to the outside pressure. This was associated with the presence of immune cells, called macrophages, in the brain of the stressed mice.

The research team was able to pin the short-term memory loss on the inflammation, and on the immune system. Their work, which appears in The Journal of Neuroscience , builds on previous research substantiating the connections between chronic stress and lasting anxiety.

The work in mice could one day lead to treatment for repeated, long-term mental assault such as that sustained by bullying victims, soldiers and those who report to beastly bosses, the researchers say.

The researchers’ work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Aging and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.