Health

Stress Can Cancel Out The Benefits Of Healthy Eating

Here's why you might want to tackle your stress before you work on your diet.

If you’re trying to eat healthy but aren’t seeing the results you want—whether in terms of your energy levels, your weight or your mood—there might be one culprit to blame: stress. A study from Ohio State University suggests that women do not benefit from eating healthier types of certain foods if they have high levels of stress the day before.

Researchers fed one group of women a diet high in saturated fat and another a diet high in healthier high oleic sunflower oil. As expected, after a blood test, the researchers found that inflammation levels were higher in the women who ate a diet high in the saturated fat.

But then the researchers added in another factor: stress. If a woman experienced high stress levels the day before, it didn’t matter what she ate: her blood levels showed high inflammation.

“We expected the healthier fats to temper or blunt some of the body’s responses to inflammation, but that simply wasn’t the case,” said Martha Belury, co-author of the study and a professor of human nutrition at Ohio State University in a press release. “That’s important because these types of inflammation markers are associated with many serious conditions later in life, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer.”

This is the first study to show that stress can nullify the benefits of eating meals prepared with healthier, monounsaturated fats such as olive oil. So if you’re trying to watch what you eat and make sure you consume the healthiest diet possible, it turns out you should probably also be focusing on reducing your stress levels to ensure you see results. Consider doing something like yoga or meditation, or practice other stress-management techniques to make sure your diet is having the impact you want.