Researchers at Ohio State University in the US set out to determine the relationship between stress and total fat intake, with the broader goal of evaluating an intervention designed to improve the diets of overweight or obese pregnant women. .
Through a series of questionnaires and statistical analyses, the team found that two skills associated with thinking—planning and executing those plans—were affected in women with high blood pressure, so these gaps were associated with eating more fat than total quantity.
These two abilities are known as executive functions, which are the set of multiple thought processes that allow people to plan, control behavior, and carry out their goals. They are regulated by a specific region of the brain, and the strengths or weaknesses of these skill areas are thought to be affected by a variety of physiological factors. Previous research has found that executive function deficits are more likely to occur in overweight or obese women than in women whose weight is classified as normal.
People with a higher level of stress tend to eat more fat as well. “If stress is high, we’re so stressed that we don’t think about anything, and we don’t care what we eat,” said lead author Mei Wei Chang, a professor of nursing at Ohio State.
For this reason, scientists have focused on executive functions as a mediator between stress and diet. “The results may be similar for women who aren’t pregnant, because it’s all about how people act,” Zhang predicts.
The 70 women enrolled in the study, which was recently published in the Journal of Pediatrics, Perinatal, and Child Health, had a pre-pregnancy BMI between 25 (scores between 25 and 29.9 classified as overweight) and 45 (scores of 30). or more classified as overweight). obesity).
Participants completed questionnaires that assessed both general perceived and pregnancy-related stress, as well as executive function. They also completed two 24-hour food diaries of their calorie intake, total fat intake, added sugar, and fruits and vegetables.
Statistical modeling showed that perceived stress was associated with poorer ability to plan and control behavior. This pathway has been linked to higher total fat intake. Similarly, higher levels of pregnancy-related stress were associated with decreased ability to plan, which in turn was associated with poorer ability to control behaviors related to carrying out a plan, and these factors were have been associated with increased fat intake.
These pathways demonstrate that an intervention designed to reduce stress will act as a starting point for improving diet and improving skills by emphasizing the ability to plan, including flexibility in planning and behavior control, particularly when making decisions.