Study Shows Stress Could be Just as Unhealthy as Junk Food

Source: Brigham Young University

Summary: A new study reveals that stress can be just as harmful or unhealthy to our bodies as junk food.

Stress is harmful in a lot of ways and mostly it is thought to be purely a psychological phenomenon but it can cause clear physical changes. Everyone knows that poor diet is unhealthy but researchers at Brigham Young University in a new study found that stress can be just as harmful or unhealthy to our bodies as unhealthy food. What they observed was, when a female mice was exposed to stress, their gut microorganisms (microbiota) changed and looked as if the mice had been eating a high-fat diet. The research paper was published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

Stress induces change in gut microbiota

Bridgewater and her collaborators studied a large group of 8-week old mice and exposed half males and half females to a high-fat diet. After 16 weeks all the mice were exposed to mild stress over a period of 18 days. Then the researchers extracted microbial DNA from fecal pellets of mice before and after the stress to test how it affected the gut microbiota. They found some surprising differences between the genders – males exhibited more anxiety than females on a high-fat diet, and it was only in female mice the stress caused the change in the composition of gut microbiota as if they were on a high-fat diet. With this study researchers believe there are could be significant implications for humans.

Bridgewater, said, “In society, women tend to have higher rates of depression and anxiety, which are linked to stress, “This study suggests that a possible source of the gender discrepancy may be the different ways gut microbiota responds to stress in males vs. females.”

More Information: Laura C. Bridgewater et al, “Gender-based differences in host behavior and gut microbiota composition in response to high-fat diet and stress in a mouse model”, Scientific Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-11069-4

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