Stress early in life leads to adulthood anxiety and preference for 'comfort foods'

July 30, 2013
Science Daily/Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior
New research finds that adult rats reared in a stressful neonatal environment demonstrate more anxiety and stress, and they prefer to eat more foods rich in fat and sugar.

Early-Life Stress increased adulthood anxiety, increased the hormonal response to stress (corticosterone) and increased the preference for comfort foods, even after a period of chronic exposure to this type of food.

"Comfort foods" have been defined as the foods eaten in response to emotional stress, and are suggested to contribute to the obesity epidemic. Hormonal responses to chronic stress in adulthood seem to play a role in the increased preference for this type of food, especially in women.

Early-Life Stress increased adulthood anxiety, increased the hormonal response to stress (corticosterone) and increased the preference for comfort foods, even after a period of chronic exposure to this type of food.

"To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate that comfort food preference could be enhanced by such an early stress exposure," says lead researcher Tania Machado. The anxiety and altered food preferences seen in these rats exposed to neonatal adversity can be related to the described changes in the hormonal response to stress. Therefore, in neonatally stressed rats, a greater consumption of "comfort foods" is possibly used as a way to alleviate anxiety symptoms (self-medication). 

Future studies in this area may have implications for primary care on childhood nutrition in vulnerable populations (e.g. low birth weight or children with a history of neonatal adversities).
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130730091401.htm

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