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Stress Erases the Anti-Inflammatory Perks of Healthy Fats


Food with unsaturated fats

Although eating a diet containing healthy fat is very beneficial, the effects of stress are so poisonous to the system that they may cancel out the health advantages associated with these healthy fats. This finding of a new study underscores an indisputable truth: stress matters.

Researchers Compared the Effects of Healthy Fat and Non-Healthy Fat

Both stress and an unhealthy diet produce chronic inflammation, therefore, researchers at Ohio State University sought to explore further the relationship between stress, inflammation and a diet with unhealthy fat.

In the study, 58 women visited the university on two occasions and were randomly assigned one of two breakfasts. One meal was biscuits and gravy made primarily with the saturated fat of palm oil, while the other meal was biscuits and gravy made mostly with the unsaturated fat of a sunflower oil high in oleic acid.

In addition, the participants were asked about their previous day’s experiences, and they were required to fill out a questionnaire to ascertain the degree of stress in their life. Minor irritants were excluded from being categorized as stressful events, but moderate struggles, such as attempting to assist a difficult parent with dementia, were included. “They’re not life-shattering events, but they’re not of the hangnail variety either,” said lead author Jan Kiecolt-Glaser.

The women also underwent blood tests multiple times during each visit. Two markers of inflammation as well as two markers that predict a higher formation of arterial plaque were measured.

Healthy-Fat Diet Reduced Inflammation Only When Stress Was Absent

All four makers rose following the saturated-fat meal, but they didn’t rise following the unsaturated-fat meal, a result that showed the inflammation-lowering advantage of the healthy-fat. However, the women undergoing stress who ate the better diet didn’t receive any of the benefits, a finding that indicates the negative effects of the stress canceled out the positive effects.

It should be emphasized that the dietary comparison dealt solely with types of fat. Both breakfasts were designed to mimic a fast-food meal. The research didn’t assess the effects of consuming a healthier diet comprised of fruits and vegetables, noted co-author Martha Belury.

Scientists believe a reduction in inflammation is the chief benefit of eating healthy food like the Mediterranean diet, which is high in oleic acid from olive oil, Belury added. The study was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.


The authors say the takeaway message isn’t to eat whatever you like when you’re stressed. Instead, they assert the findings should serve as a reminder to aim for healthier food choices, so you are starting from a better place when adverse circumstances hit.

Research increasingly shows mental health affects physical health. Our body operates as a unit, so psychological factors can’t be compartmentalized. Since our emotions are intricately woven into our physiology, this aspect of health should be addressed.


Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.

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