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Tasty Foods May Reduce Stress

Pleasurable Activities Reduce Stress For emotional eaters, a new finding that pleasurable foods both provide “pleasure” and relieve stress in rats may not come as a surprise.

University of Cincinnati researcher Yvonne Ulrich-Lai, PhD, and colleagues discovered the reduced-stress effects can continue for at least seven days.

“These findings give us a clearer understanding of the motivation for consuming ‘comfort food’ during times of stress,” said Ulrich-Lai.

“But it’s important to note that, based on our findings, even small amounts of pleasurable foods can reduce the effects of stress.”

The researchers provided rats twice-daily access to a sugar solution for two weeks, then tested the rats’ physiological and behavioral responses to stress.

Compared with controls, rats with access to sugar exhibited reduced heart rate and stress hormone levels while placed in ventilated restraint tubes and were more willing to explore an unfamiliar environment and socially interact with other rats.

Rats who were fed a solution artificially sweetened with saccharin (instead of being fed sucrose) showed similar reductions in stress responses, the researchers say, as did rats who were given access to sexually responsive partners. But sucrose supplied directly to the stomach did not blunt the rats’ stress response, the researchers say.

“This indicates that the pleasurable properties of tasty foods, not the caloric properties, were sufficient for stress reduction,” saidUlrich-Lai.

Physiological responses to stress include activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis, regulated by the brain structure known as the basolateral amygdale (BLA).

Rats exposed to pleasurable activities, such as tasty foods and sex, experienced weakened HPA axis responses to stress, the researchers found. Lesions of the BLA prevented stress reduction by sucrose, suggesting that neural activity in the BLA is necessary for the effect.

“Our research identifies key neural circuits underlying the comfort food effect,” saidUlrich-Lai.

“Further research is needed, but identification of these circuits could provide potential strategies for intervening to prevent or curtail increasing rates of obesity and other metabolic disorders.”

Source: University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center

Tasty Foods May Reduce Stress

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Tasty Foods May Reduce Stress. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 21, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/11/15/tasty-foods-may-reduce-stress/20913.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.