(HealthDay News) — Chronic stress increases vulnerability to the metabolic risks associated with an unhealthy diet, such as visceral adiposity, according to research published online April 12 in Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Kirstin Aschbacher, PhD, of the University of California in San Francisco, and colleagues studied the effects of foods high in sugar and fat (highly palatable foods [HPF]) on metabolic risk in 33 postmenopausal women who were caregivers (cases) and 28 age-matched women with low stress (controls).

The researchers found that greater consumption of HPF was associated with increased levels of abdominal adiposity, oxidative stress, and insulin resistance at baseline (all P≤0.01) in chronically stressed women but not in women with low stress. Plasma peripheral neuropeptide Y (NPY) level was significantly greater in cases than in controls. Among women with high versus low levels of NPY, the association of HPF with abdominal adiposity was stronger. Little change occurred in the primary outcomes at one year.

“The implication of this work is that chronically stressed individuals are more vulnerable to a high-fat/high-sugar diet,” the authors write. “If confirmed, these data invite the exciting possibility that increasing resilience skills could improve the efficacy of interventions to help individuals lose weight and manage metabolic syndrome, even if diet and activity levels remained the same.”

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