Friday, February 23, 2018
Health

Chill out, ladies: Don't let stress erase the benefits of your healthful diet

Life sometimes foils the best of our intentions.

New research on women, stress and diet amply illustrates that sad fact. It shows that even when women greeted a new day with a "better-for-you" fast-food breakfast, that meal's expected health-promoting qualities were washed away by the carryover effects of yesterday's stresses.

For women who reported experiencing no stress on the day before they showed up to participate in a study, eating a breakfast formulated with healthy fats paid handsome dividends: Compared with women who got a breakfast larded with saturated fat, after eating, these women saw no jump in several markers of inflammation — measures that are strongly linked to a wide range of diseases.

But suffering a day of stresses — financial worries, a child's health scare, the need to be in two places at one time — erased the difference between women who got healthy fats and those who got fats more commonly linked to heart disease.

Those findings, reported in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, help illuminate the complex interactions between what we eat, how we live and whether we develop chronic diseases. At the core of this nexus is inflammation — a normal, healthy immune response when it's in check, a harbinger of trouble when it's chronically out of control.

By promoting clotting and the aggregation of other potential troublemakers in the bloodstream, inflammation is widely seen as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, metabolic dysfunctions, certain cancers and brain disorders ranging from depression to dementia. Though its exact role in such diseases is unclear, "it is not an innocent bystander," said Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, director of Ohio State University's Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research and lead study author.

So when markers of inflammation are driven up or down by what we eat and how we live, it offers scientists some insights into the mechanisms by which chronic inflammation does damage. And it offers those looking for better health some clear guidance about what to embrace and what to avoid.

In the current study, Kiecolt-Glaser and her team put 58 healthy women (average age 53) through a battery of tests before and after they were assigned to one of two groups on two separate visits: After a day in which all participants got the same meals to eat at home, the women arrived to the study site and were assigned to get one of two meals, both of them a high-calorie (930 calories), high-fat (60 grams) breakfast of eggs, turkey sausage, biscuits and gravy. One group's breakfast was made the typical fast-food way, prepared in butter and very high in saturated fats. The second group of women got the same breakfast prepared with sunflower oil: Though still a dense, filling meal, the second group's breakfast leaned more heavily on the kinds of unsaturated fats that are a central component of the Mediterranean diet.

Before and after their meals, the women had their blood drawn to measure four different markers of inflammation. They were asked to detail the events of the previous day, including any stressors. Their blood pressure was measured, and all the women's current symptoms and past history of depression were measured and recorded.

Kiecolt-Glaser said the kinds of stresses that erased the positive effects of the "healthier-for-you" breakfast were not life-changing. But neither, she said, did they amount to "a bad hair day." Women described having to scramble to ensure that work obligations didn't leave kids or spouses in the lurch. They described mid-sized household disasters and caring for recalcitrant older parents. In a group of 58 women, 31 reported at least one recent stressor at one visit, 21 at both visits. Six women reported no stressors at either visit.

The inflammation measures told an interesting story: Even when they got the breakfast formulated to be healthier, women who had weathered some real stresses the day before didn't show lower levels of inflammation than the women who got the less-healthy breakfast.

In the real world, the findings suggest, even a woman's smart dietary choices may not be enough to neutralize the harm done by a day of frantic juggling. Curiously, among women who got the fast-food breakfast high in saturated fat, prior-day stresses did not drive inflammation markers still higher: It seems, said Kiecolt-Glaser, that a mega-dose of Western diet "basically saturated the system at that point."

The women's past history of depression also showed up in the before-and-after-meal measurements. Whether or not they got the classic fast-food breakfast or the reformulated one, women with a history of major depressive disorder were less likely to experience the expected drop in blood pressure that follows consumption of a meal than were women who had not experienced depression. The expected result of such a pattern over the long-term: a steady accrual of wear and tear on the blood vessels and heart over a lifetime, which might help explain the long-observed link between depression and heart disease.

Kiecolt-Glaser warns that the takeaway message of all this is decidedly not to give up on making good dietary choices if your life is stressful. "We all know that when we're stressed, we don't reach for broccoli unless it's covered in hollandaise sauce on it," she said. But it's important to recognize that what we eat and how we live can interact in ways strange and unforgiving, she said. So we need to make the best choices in managing stress and choosing our meals whenever we can.

Comments
Doctors ordered a urine test after her surgery. That’ll be $17,850, the lab said

Doctors ordered a urine test after her surgery. That’ll be $17,850, the lab said

This is the debut of a monthly feature from Kaiser Health News and NPR that will dissect and explain real medical bills in order to shed light on U.S. health care prices and to help patients learn how to be more active in managing costs. Do you have ...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/22/18
Preventive treatment for peanut allergies succeeds in study

Preventive treatment for peanut allergies succeeds in study

The first treatment to help prevent serious allergic reactions to peanuts may be on the way. A company said Tuesday that its daily capsules of peanut flour helped sensitize children to nuts in a major study. Millions of children have peanut allergies...
Published: 02/20/18
Doctors were wrong when they told her immunotherapy wouldn’t cure her cancer

Doctors were wrong when they told her immunotherapy wouldn’t cure her cancer

No one expected the four young women to live much longer. They had an extremely rare, aggressive and fatal form of ovarian cancer. There was no standard treatment.The women, strangers to one another living in different countries, asked their doctors ...
Published: 02/20/18

Hernando Bloodmobile for Feb. 23

Bloodmobile locationsLifeSouth Community Blood Center will have blood drives at the following off-site locations during the coming week:Feb. 23: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Walmart, 13300 Cortez Blvd., Spring Hill; 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Dickey’s Barbecue P...
Published: 02/20/18
Be prepared to help save a life: Learn CPR

Be prepared to help save a life: Learn CPR

70 percent of cardiac arrests outside hospitals happen at home. American Heart Association 3 a.m. Jan. 4, 2016. Lisa Peters of St. Petersburg is awakened by her husband, Rick, making strange gasping sounds. She can’t wake him. He feels cold. Only 46...
Published: 02/16/18

Step by step, ramp up your daily activity

Jae Bermanhe Washington Post There are many reasons that people avoid exercise. Time is an obvious one. Our lives are already busy — who has time to work out? Money is another common excuse. Gym memberships and equipment can get pricey.People often w...
Published: 02/16/18
Put Alaskan king crab leg shells to work in a creamy, dreamy bisque

Put Alaskan king crab leg shells to work in a creamy, dreamy bisque

Nothing says indulgence like noshing on some seriously giant Alaskan king crab legs. They’re not just tasty, they’re a low-fat source of protein: One leg has about 25 grams of protein and a host of vitamins and minerals (including sodium, incidentall...
Published: 02/15/18
Avocado toast gets a persimmon twist

Avocado toast gets a persimmon twist

You’ve likely seen persimmon in the grocery store and then shied away from it, not quite sure what to do with it. The most common variety in the United States is the fuyu persimmon, also called Japanese persimmon, and it looks similar to a slightly f...
Published: 02/15/18
News co-anchor Dan Harris delves into meditation, and why being distracted is ‘a victory’

News co-anchor Dan Harris delves into meditation, and why being distracted is ‘a victory’

Emma Seppalahe Washington PostDan Harris is co-anchor of ABC’s Nightline and the weekend editions of Good Morning America. His first book, 10% Happier, was a No. 1 New York Times bestseller. He later launched the 10% Happier podcast and an app called...
Published: 02/15/18

Mayo Clinic Q&A: exercise stress tests; breast self-awareness versus self-exams

DON’T SWEAT THE EXERCISE STRESS TESTI have a treadmill stress test scheduled to look for heart disease. I know this involves exercising, and I’m worried that I’m not physically up to it. Is there another way to gather this information?Yes. There’s an...
Published: 02/15/18