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Stress-Induced Eating Dampens Physiological and Behavioral Stress Responses


Both psychological and physical stressors induce the secretion of glucocorticoids and insulin, which increase the consumption of palatable high-fat, high-sugar "comfort foods." Chronic engagement in stress-induced eating behavior leads to visceral fat accumulation, which in turn dampens hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity. The joint role of stress-induced eating and abdominal fat stores in attenuating physiological stress responses has been well characterized in nonhuman animal models; however, very few studies to date have investigated these processes in humans. Preliminary evidence from human studies similarly indicates that chronic stress exposure is associated with increased consumption of palatable food, greater abdominal fat, and dampened cortisol response to acute stress. In this chapter, we describe the cross-species data demonstrating these attenuated stress responses, also considering the endocrine, affective, and neural mechanisms for reinforcing stress-induced eating processes. We conclude with a discussion of the remaining gaps in the literature and directions for future research. © 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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