Stress Causes Loss Of Appetite In Overweight Kids, According To Study

Health News: Overweight adolescents who are prone to stress-induced eating actually ate less when exposed to a lab stressor.

People tend to eat more sweets and calorie dense food under stress. Overweight individuals are susceptible to eating fattening comfort foods and are known to be fueled by cortisol, an appetite stimulating stress hormone. However, Researchers at University of Michigan saw an opposite behavior in overweight adolescents when exposed to a lab stressor.

The research team hired 51 overweight adolescents (including male and female) ages 14 to 19 years and exposed them to the Trier Social Stress Test and a control condition on separate days. After exposure to stress, participants were provided with snacks to eat at their leisure. The research team assessed reactivity via salivary cortisol and α-amylase area under the curve, and adolescents were categorized as high or low reactors.

Results showed that high cortisol reactivity in overweight adolescents decreased their calorie consumption during the stress condition. Even kids who produced the most cortisol after the stressor saw the biggest appetite reduction, eating about 35% fewer calories in the two hours after the stressor. The results were similar whether adolescents in the study were monitoring their food intake or not. This matters because people who restrict calories are more likely to stress eat.

“This doesn’t mean stress kids out and they’ll lose weight. This is in the short term only. They may eat more calories later. Typically, many kids did say they turned to food when stressed, so maybe this was a time effect,” said principal investigator Rebecca Hasson.

There is a need for further research to understand the mechanisms underlying stress-induced suppression of food intake in overweight adolescents. These findings are exciting and give a chance to observe eating patterns when adults are exposed to stressful events, an important factor in childhood obesity, long-term heart problems and type 2 diabetes risk.

To Know More You May Refer To:

Nagy, M. R., Gill, A., Adams, T., Gerras, J., Mazin, L., Leung, C., & Hasson, R. E. (2019). Stress-induced suppression of food intake in overweight and obese adolescents. Psychosomatic Medicine, 81(9), 814-820. https://doi.org/10.1097/psy.0000000000000732

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