Stress, Dieting, and Obesity: Another Link

It’s common sense that when stressed, people often turn to food for comfort. Interestingly, people are often stressed because they are dieting, and engage in yo-yo diet behavior. But how harmful is this cycle, really? Turns out, while calorie restriction may work, it might increase stress and depression levels. Tracy Bale and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania looked at associations between behavior and hormone levels in mice fed limited diets. According to Bale, “after three weeks of fewer calories, the mice lost 10 to 15 percent of their body weight, similar to human diet weight loss.

These results suggest that dieting not only increases stress, making successful dieting more difficult, but that it may actually ‘reprogram’ how the brain responds to future stress and emotional drives for food.” Dr. Zigman, another researcher on the study, stated that “this study highlights the difficult road that human dieters often travel to attain and maintain their weight loss goals.” Perhaps most importantly, Dr. Zigman stated that “it also suggests that management of stress during dieting may be key to achieving those goals.” Keep in mind, however, that this study was a mouse design, and that conditions were controlled in ways that we could never implement with people. What’s more important: Losing a few pounds, or avoiding feeling stressed and depressed? Perhaps (duh) the solution is to develop a better healthstyle, and not to rely on strict diets and calorie counting. Read more at The Journal of Neuroscience.