Mark Borigini M.D.

Overcoming Pain

Well, You Might As Well Eat That Donut

A moveable feast that brings us all a little closer to where we don't want to be

Posted Feb 28, 2017

Published a few months ago in the “Journal of Molecular Psychiatry,” research on women, stress and diet amply illustrates that a healthy diet may be cancelled out by stress.

For women who reported experiencing no stress on the day before their study visit, eating a breakfast formulated with healthy fats resulted in no increase in markers of inflammation, compared with women who got a breakfast loaded with saturated fat.  Inflammation in and of itself can be associated with contributing to a variety of illnesses, including cardiovascular disease and cancer.

However, experiencing a day of stressors — from financial worries to concerns about a sick relative — negated the benefits of a healthy diet.

Our lifestyles, our diets, and the chronic illnesses we experience, all related.

Inflammation is widely seen as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, metabolic dysfunctions, certain cancers and brain disorders ranging from depression to dementia.

In this study, 58 healthy women (with an average age of 53) were tested before and after they were assigned to one of two groups on two separate visits: After a day in which all participants were provided with the same meals to eat at home, the women arrived to the study site and were assigned to get one of two meals, both of them a high-calorie (930 calories), high-fat (60 grams) breakfast of eggs, turkey sausage, biscuits and gravy. One group’s breakfast was prepared in butter and thus very high in saturated fats. The second group of women were served the same breakfast, only in this case prepared with sunflower oil: the second group’s breakfast leaned more heavily on the types of unsaturated fats that are a central component of the so-called “Mediterranean diet.”

Before and after their meals, the women had their blood drawn to measure four different markers of inflammation. They in turn related the events of the previous day, including any stressors. Their blood pressure was measured, and all the women’s current symptoms and past history of depression were measured and documented in case report forms.

Even when they ate the breakfast formulated to be healthier, women who had dealt with significant stress the day before did not show lower levels of inflammation than the women who ate the less-healthy breakfast.

In the real world, the findings suggest, even a woman’s smart dietary choices may not be enough to neutralize the harm done by a day filled with stress.

And dealing with baseline depression resulted in a lower likelihood to experience a drop in blood pressure, no matter the diet a subject was fed. The expected result of such a pattern over the long-term: a steady accrual of wear and tear on the blood vessels and heart over a lifetime, which might help explain the long-observed link between depression and heart disease.

A moveable feast that brings us all a little closer to a place we don’t want to be.