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Neuroendocrine Stress Response and Its Impact on Eating Behavior and Body Weight-Chapter 21

Elsevier Inc.
DOI: 10.1016/b978-0-12-374387-9.00021-0
  • Medicine


Publisher Summary As individuals turn to “comfort foods” to alleviate stress, the continued failure to cope with stressors may promote the development of obesity. This drive for comfort is associated with a shift from the homeostatic/allostatic system (dependent on energy stores and nutritional status) to the non-homeostatic or reward-seeking system (involved with the motivational aspects of eating). The “homeostatic” and “non-homeostatic” controls on food intake and energy expenditure are achieved through coordination between the hypothalamus, the brainstem, and various limbic areas. However, if pleasure is experienced after the consumption of high-sugar/high-fat foods, the hedonic response might be capable of overriding homeostasis/allostasis and result in an elevated appetite and a drive to overeat “pleasurable” calories. This chapter addresses some of the current research findings in both animal and human populations that have elucidated how and why food consumption patterns can be altered under stressor conditions. It is suggested that cortisol (or corticosterone in rodents) and several metabolic hormones, released under stress and anxiety conditions, are linked to changes in metabolic function. Moreover, through repeated experiences, individuals may learn that eating high-caloric foods can reduce some of the unpleasant effects of stress and thus, with further stressor encounters, individuals may “self-medicate” through eating “comfort foods.”

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