According to a study recently published in the journal Neuronstressed people are more likely to make unhealthy food choices. Researchers from Switzerland have discovered that people who are moderately stressed have a weak willpower when it comes to choosing between healthy and unhealthy food.
The study involved 51 men who were struggling to exercise regularly and have a healthy diet. No women were involved in the study. Co-author of the study Silvia Maier from at the University of Zurich explained that this was due to the fact that the stress hormone cortisol would have interfered with estrogen and would have made it harder for researchers to measure cortisol levels ad a variable.
Half of the participants were put in a situation which was meant to generate moderate stress. The men were required to place their hands in an ice-water bath for three minutes. After this stage the men where showed pictures on a computer screen. One of the pictures showed a tasty food item and the other picture a healthy one.
When they were supposed to choose which food they prefer the men who experienced stress were more likely to select the unhealthy food item compared to those participants who were not stressed. Researchers were able to identify this by analyzing brain scans of the participants. It seems that in the case of the stressed participants the connections in the brain that were responsible for promoting a health goal were weaker. On the other hand the neural pathway in the brain which affects an individual’s desire for immediate gratification had an enhanced activity.
Maier explained that the research indicates that self-control is influenced by a complex network in the brain. The study also offers solutions to how to improve one’s self-control and solve self-control problems. Since people who are trying to eat healthy may be vulnerable to food craving when they are stressed Maier recommends that they should simply remove any temptations. If you know that you cannot resist a particular type of unhealthy food such as ice cream or potato chips you can simply make sure that you don’t have those particular food items inside the house so if you ever have a craving for them you won’t have them simply waiting for you in a kitchen wardrobe.