Stress Does Not Lead To Loss Of Self-Control And Binge-Eating, Finds New Study

Mental Health News: A new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, concluded that contrary to the popular notion, stress does not lead to loss of self-control, which causes binge-eating, in people with eating disorders.

People having bulimia nervosa and a subset of those affected by anorexia nervosa share certain key symptoms like binge-eating and compensatory behaviors such as vomiting.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge invited 85 women — 22 with anorexia nervosa, 33 with bulimia nervosa, and 30 healthy controls — to attend a two-day stay at a Facility, which includes an Eating Behaviour Unit.

The setting of the Research Facility is designed to be as naturalistic as possible and the team strictly controlled the volunteer’s diet and environment. Researchers studied the metabolic status in detail during a residential status.

During the stay, each morning the women would receive controlled meals, followed by a fasting period. Then they were asked to perform a stop-signal task while their brain activity was monitored using a functional MRI scanner. The women then performed a task while receiving mild but unpredictable electric shocks. The women then repeated the stop-signal task again.

After completing the tasks, the volunteers were taken to a relaxing lounge and offered an ‘all you can eat’ buffet – while they remained in a heightened state of stress. The participants were allowed to eat as much they want. On the second day of their study, the volunteers carried out the same tasks, but without electric shocks and pressure to perform.

The findings of the Cambridge-led research showed that the patients, in general, ate less in the buffet than the controls, the amount that they ate did not differ between the stress and control days. “The theory suggests that these women should have eaten more when they were stressed, but that’s actually not what we found,” said Dr. Westwater, who led the research.

To Know More, You May Refer To

Margaret L. Westwater, Flavia Mancini, Adam X. Gorka, Jane Shapleske, Jaco Serfontein, Christian Grillon, Monique Ernst, Hisham Ziauddeen, Paul C. Fletcher. Prefrontal responses during proactive and reactive inhibition are differentially impacted by stress in anorexia and bulimia nervosa. The Journal of Neuroscience, 2021; JN-RM-2853-20 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2853-20.2021

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