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Study: Managing Stress Is Key To Getting The Most Out Of A Healthy Diet

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Many people have been trying to eat healthy with less bad fat, and more good fats like olive oil, but that might not be enough.

As CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez explained, a new study found that -- for women at least -- what's happening in life might be more important than what's on the plate.

After getting home from school, and before starting their homework, Joanne Drew said it's common for her kids to crave certain comfort foods.

After all, days can be long and stressful even at their age.

"When you're stressed you feel out of control so what you try to do is be in control and to be in control you eat," she said.

In an effort to keep her family fit Joanne looks for healthier ingredients in food whenever she can.

A new study suggested that in stressful situations that may not be as helpful as you might think.

"What this tells us is that stress really does interact with the type of food you're eating," Dr. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, Ohio State Wexner Medical Center said.

Dr. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser led the study at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. To see how stress impacts diet, researchers fed 58 women two different meals.

"One was a meal that was high in saturated fat, another was high oleic sunflower oil, that's a healthier oil, obviously, than saturated fat," she said.

After women ate the meal with saturated fat, blood tests showed their inflammation levels were higher. After healthier meals they were lower.

Then, researchers added stress into the equation.

"To our surprise, if women had a stressor the day before their meal, the type of fat didn't matter," Dr. Martha Belury explained.

In fact, healthier types of fat had no benefit for women who were stressed. Their inflammation markers remained elevated.

"That's important because those markers are associated with a variety of age-related diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes," Dr. Kiecolt-Glaser said.

It can even be linked to some forms of cancer. If you want to get the most out of a healthy diet, a key ingredient is managing stress.

Of course, this doesn't mean giving up on healthy eating, it means we have to all work on lowering our stress levels which may be easier to say than to actually do -- but now we know why it's so important.

The study also gave doctors a clue as to how stress leads to chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.


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