Overweight Teens Actually Eat Less When They’re Stressed, Finds Study


When most of us are stressed, we often turn to comfort food which comprises of unhealthy snacks like potato chips, chocolate chip cookies, burgers, among others. But a latest study by the University of Michigan found out that overweight and obese teenagers eat less and opt to avoid high-fat and sugary options after stressful situations.

Researchers found out that those who produced the most amount of stress hormone cortisol after being exposed to stress in a laboratory, ate about 35 percent less calories than their peers.

While cortisol is referred to as an appetite stimulant, researchers from the University of Michigan believe the gush of hormone during stressful events turns it into an appetite suppressor.

Stress may often lead to headaches, increase blood pressure and chest pain. It may increase the chance of, or worsen, diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthama as well as arthritis.

Along with this, the increase of cortisol, known as the stress hormone, can increase the amount of fat tissue stored in a person’s body and cause him/her to gain weight.

But the researchers wanted to find out if the spike in cortisol also stimulated appetites, and, in turn helped contribute to weight gain.

In the study published in Psychosomatic Medicine, the team recruited 51 overweight and obese children between the age of 14 and 19 years. The participants were exposed to the Trier Social Stress Test- a laboratory procedure that induces stress – on the first day and a control condition on the following day. Immediately, after each condition, the participants were given a variety of snacks to gorge.

Those who produced the most cortisol after stress test had the biggest reduction in appetite.

People who restrict calories are the most likely to stress eat but researchers found out similar results in both teens who did and didn’t track what they eat.

“This doesn’t mean stress kids out and they’ll lose weight,” Daily Mail quoted principal investigator Rebecca Hasson, an associate professor of movement science at the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology, as saying.

“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,” she added.