Eating junk food when stressed out can trigger anxiety, finds study – Times of India


Eating junk food like a samosa or a burger when you’re feeling stressed can actually raise anxiety levels, researchers reported Monday.

Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder found that in animals, a high-fat diet alters gut bacteria, alters behavior, and changes brain chemicals in ways that increase anxiety.

Christopher Lowry, professor of integrative physiology at CU Boulder and senior author, commented on the findings of the study, published in the journal Biological Research. “It’s extraordinary to think that a high-fat diet alone could alter the expression of these genes in the brain,” Lowry said. His research in animals suggests that exposure to an ultra-high-fat diet composed predominantly of saturated fats, especially at a young age, could increase anxiety in the short term and prime the brain to be more prone to it in the future. .

The study showed that the high-fat diet group exhibited a molecular signature of high anxiety in their brains.

The researchers examined the animals’ gut microbiome, or bacteria, throughout the study. Compared to the control group, the high-fat diet group not only gained weight but also showed significantly lower diversity in gut bacteria.

This group also had higher expression of three genes involved in the production and signaling of the neurotransmitter serotonin, related to stress and anxiety.

While serotonin is often called “a feel-good brain chemical,” certain subsets of serotonin neurons can trigger anxiety-like responses when activated in animals.

Lowry suggests that an unhealthy microbiome can compromise the lining of the gut, allowing bacteria to enter the body’s circulation and communicate with the brain through the vagus nerve, a pathway that runs from the gastrointestinal tract to the brain.

“It makes sense from an evolutionary perspective,” Lowry said. “We are programmed to notice the things that make us sick so we can avoid them in the future.”

The researchers noted that not all fats are bad. Healthy fats, such as those found in fish, olive oil, nuts and seeds, can be anti-inflammatory and beneficial for the brain.



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