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Stress is a Mess for Health

Stressful Events Cancel Out Benefits of Choosing Healthier Fats 

We all know chronic stress is bad for your health. Being on-edge all the time can inhibit weight loss and overworking yourself has been shown to increase risk of heart disease and stroke. A healthy diet can fix that, right? Maybe not—a 2016 study published in the journal Nature suggests chronic stress may cancel out virtuous choices in the kitchen. 

For the study, researchers from Ohio State honed in on the connection between stress, dietary fats and inflammation. Fifty-eight middle-aged women ate either a meal high in saturated fat or a meal high in unsaturated fat from sunflower oil on different days. After each meal women were interviewed to determine how many stressful events had occurred within the past day. 

As expected, levels of inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein were higher in women following the high-saturated fat meal compared with the healthy-fat meal—at least when women were stress-free. But when stress was in the picture, these differences disappeared. So much for a healthy diet when your body is running on stress! 

Between decorating, shopping for gifts and dealing with in-laws, the holidays can be a stressful time. First things first, enjoy the season and time with family and don’t let the little things get your blood pressure soaring. Find ways to relieve stress, such as taking walks, doing yoga or playing an instrument. As for your diet, keep saturated fats to less than seven percent of calories and stick with mostly unsaturated fats like olive oil and avocados.

Published December 1, 2016

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