Tuesday, September 16, 2003
Comfort Foods Switch Off Stress, Scientists Find
Really, did we need a paper in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on this to know what is now headline news in The New York Times? Here are some of the not-earth-shattering conclusions:
-- "Comfort foods like chocolate cake and ice cream literally blunt the body's response to chronic stress."Anyone for transcendental meditation and a pint of Häagen-Dazs?
-- "This makes sense from an evolutionary viewpoint. . . . Animals that are acutely stressed stop eating, lie low and pull fat and protein from their bodies. But they cannot do that forever. . . . 'After a few days, they need to get out and get a real fix,' [the author] said. 'They need high-energy foods, like a tub of butter, to put money in the bank.' Once energy stores are replenished, a signal, probably from fat, flows back to the brain saying it is all right to calm down [and] the chronic stress cycle is turned off."
-- "'"[I]f you are overly stressed, it's probably a good idea to overeat, at least in the short run,' said [one of the authors]. 'But if you develop a thick tire of fat around your abdomen, you need to figure out a way to reduce your stress or you'll be inviting all sorts of chronic health problems.'"
-- "In an insidious sidelight, stress hormones also activate fat receptors in the abdomen and belly in ways that increase deposits of fat, he said. The more abdominal fat people have, the better they shut down chronic stress but the more vulnerable they are to diabetes, heart disease and stroke."
-- "Chronic stress, perversely, also excites the compulsive pleasure-seeking component of the system, [the author] said. 'If you use sex, drugs or rock 'n' roll instead of high-energy food to get stress-reducing pleasure, you miss out on the metabolic feedback,' he said. 'You don't shut down the chronic stress system. You just seek more cocaine. Things like saccharin won't cut it. You need the real thing or the system won't stay in balance.'"