12 January - 20 June 2016

Stress can affect the benefits of “good” fats

According to a study by Kiecolt-Glaser et al. published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, stress eradicates the positive effects of consuming good fats. Chronic inflammation is linked to a number of health problems including heart disease, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Whilst the researchers knew that both diet and stress can alter inflammation they wanted to know more about the interplay between them.

According to a study by Kiecolt-Glaser et al. published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, stress eradicates the positive effects of consuming good fats.  Chronic inflammation is linked to a number of health problems including heart disease, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.  Whilst the researchers knew that both diet and stress can alter inflammation they wanted to know more about the interplay between them. 

The double-blinded, randomised crossover study assessed metabolic responses following a high fat meal.  The team recruited 58 women with a depression history, 38 of whom were breast cancer survivors. The women were an average age of 53 years old. 

The day before the study the participants received 3 standardised meals in order to reduce the variability associated with recent food intake. For the study intervention, the participants received one high saturated fat meal and one high oleic sunflower oil meal during two separate 9.5 hr visits spaced between 1-4 weeks apart.  The two meals included egg, turkey sausage, biscuits and gravy, providing a total of 930 kcal. However the ratio between saturated:unsaturated fatty acid varied between the meals, with the high saturated fat meal containing 16.84 g palmitic acid and 13.5 g oleic  compared with 8.64 g palmitic and 31.21 g oleic for the high oleic sunflower oil meal.  Blood samples were taken before and 2, 4 and 7 hours after each meal.  The scientists analysed the blood for two markers of inflammation – C-reactive protein (CRP) and serum amyloid A (SAA). They also evaluated two markers called cell adhesion molecules (sICAM-1 and sVCAM-1) that could predict a greater likelihood of plaque forming in the arteries.

Blood pressures was assessed every 2 minutes for 20 minutes at baseline and then every 2 minutes for 10 minutes following consumption.  The participants also reported daily stressful events within the last 24 hrs of which 31 reported at least one stressor at one visit, 21 at both and 6 had no stressor.  Depression was also assessed. 

Kiecolt-Glaser et al. report that all four unhealthy markers were higher following the saturated fat meal than the sunflower oil meal. However in the women who had reported having a stressful day, the difference disappeared.  Stressors increased levels of all four harmful blood markers in the sunflower oil group, but stress did not seem to change the readings for those who ate saturated fat.  There was a 2.9% increase in the mean CRP, 2.3% increase in mean SAA and a 1.7% increase of sICAM-1 and 2.1% increase in geometric mean of sVCAM-1.

In conclusion the author state that using “healthy breast cancer survivors could have affected our results.  However we found no reliable post-meal difference between cancer survivors and control in these analyses”.  The authors note in a press release “it's important to remember that inflammation creeps up over time to contribute to disease. The message here, they said, is not that you might as well eat whatever you want when you're stressed. Rather it could serve as a reminder to shoot for healthier choices every day so that when stress gets in your way you're starting in a better place.”

RSSL's can determine the fatty acid profile of all dietary fats and oils including trans fats. For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

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