Bad food may be even worse if you're stressed

Bad food may be even worse if you're stressed
Fast and easy - those are the requirements Tania Sarria has for her meals.

She puts in at least 10 hours a day as a project manager for a software services company and her stressful schedule doesn't allow for much else.

"You take a quick 15-20 minutes to go grab your food and then you bring it back to your desk, dial into your meeting and you try to eat it in between your meetings," Sarria said.

Fast food is a proven contributor to obesity, but now a small study out of Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center suggests women who eat those meals while stressed may pack on more pounds.

Researchers asked nearly 60 middle-age women to discuss how stressful their lives were the day before. They then fed them a high-fat meal to see how their metabolisms reacted.

"When the women reported having at least one stressor in their life the day before we were doing the test, that actually reduced their ability to burn calories," said Martha Belury, Ph.D.

"The difference was about 104 calories," added Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, Ph.D. "Which is no big deal for a single day, but if you took that across a year, it could be almost 11 pounds."

Outside experts said it's important to note that two-thirds of the participants were breast cancer survivors who weighed slightly more than the other women and they were more likely to be depressed - factors that could skew the results. Also, little was known about how their past treatment may have impacted their metabolism.

The most common stressors reported were an argument with a coworker, a disagreement with a friend and trouble with children. The researchers said men have more muscle than women which impacts how they metabolize food, so these results may only apply to women.

Experts say one message is clear: turning to high-fat food while stressed may satisfy your need for convenient comfort foods, but it may not be comforting the next time you step on a scale.