Stress Early in Life Leads to Adulthood Anxiety and Preference for ‘Comfort Foods’

Research to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), the foremost society for research into all aspects of eating and drinking behavior, suggests that exposure to stress in the first few days of life increases stress responses, anxiety and the consumption of palatable “comfort” foods in adulthood.

“Comfort foods” have been defined as the foods eaten in response to emotional stress, and are suggested to contribute to the obesity epidemic. Hormonal responses to chronic stress in adulthood seem to play a role in the increased preference for this type of food, especially in women.

In this study, we aimed at verifying if an exposure to stress very early during development could also lead to increased consumption of comfort food in adult life, and if increased anxiety and stress responses were persistently affected by early adversity. Litters of rats were subjected to a protocol of reduced nesting material (Early-Life Stress) or standard care (Controls), in the first days of life. In adulthood, behavioral anxiety and stress reaction were measured. Preference for comfort food was measured over four days in a computerized system, in which the mean intake over approximately every second is calculated by a peripheral computer (BioDaq, Research Diets).

Full story of stress, anxiety, and comfort foods at Science Daily

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Exercise Reorganizes the Brain to Be More Resilient to Stress

Physical activity reorganizes the brain so that its response to stress is reduced and anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal brain function, according to a research team based at Princeton University.

The researchers report in the Journal of Neuroscience that when mice allowed to exercise regularly experienced a stressor — exposure to cold water — their brains exhibited a spike in the activity of neurons that shut off excitement in the ventral hippocampus, a brain region shown to regulate anxiety.

These findings potentially resolve a discrepancy in research related to the effect of exercise on the brain — namely that exercise reduces anxiety while also promoting the growth of new neurons in the ventral hippocampus. Because these young neurons are typically more excitable than their more mature counterparts, exercise should result in more anxiety, not less. The Princeton-led researchers, however, found that exercise also strengthens the mechanisms that prevent these brain cells from firing.

The impact of physical activity on the ventral hippocampus specifically has not been deeply explored, said senior author Elizabeth Gould, Princeton’s Dorman T. Warren Professor of Psychology. By doing so, members of Gould’s laboratory pinpointed brain cells and regions important to anxiety regulation that may help scientists better understand and treat human anxiety disorders, she said.

Full story of exercising and stress at Science Daily

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Children Who Avoid Scary Situations Likelier to Have Anxiety

Children who avoid situations they find scary are likely to have anxiety a Mayo Clinic study of more than 800 children ages 7 to 18 found. The study published this month in Behavior Therapy presents a new method of measuring avoidance behavior in young children.

The researchers developed two eight-question surveys: the Children’s Avoidance Measure Parent Report and the Children’s Avoidance Measure Self Report. The questionnaires ask details about children’s avoidance tendencies, for instance, in addressing parents, “When your child is scared or worried about something, does he or she ask to do it later?” It also asks children to describe their passive avoidance habits. For example: “When I feel scared or worried about something, I try not to go near it.”

One of the most surprising findings was that measuring avoidance could also predict children’s development of anxiety. Children who participated in the study showed stable anxiety scores after a year had passed, but those who described avoidance behaviors at the onset tended to be more anxious a year later.

Full story of children and anxiety at Science Daily

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Poor Mental Health Leads to Unhealthy Behaviors Among Low-Income Adults

Mental Health Among Low Income AdultsStudy says binge drinking, smoking, and illegal drug use may be used to cope with depression and anxiety.

Poor mental health leads to unhealthy behaviors in low-income adults – not the other way around, according to a new study¹ by Dr. Jennifer Walsh and colleagues from the Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine at The Miriam Hospital in the US. In this study, stress and anxiety predicted subsequent health-compromising behaviors, such as smoking, binge drinking, illegal drug use, unprotected sex and unhealthy diets. One possible explanation for these findings is that health compromising behaviors may be used as coping mechanisms to manage the effects of stress and anxiety. The study is published online in the Springer journal, Translational Behavioral Medicine², and is part of an issue focusing on multiple health behavior change.

Dr. Walsh and her team explored the relationship between health-compromising behaviors and mental health in the context of socioeconomic disadvantage to determine whether mental health problems lead to subsequent unhealthy behaviors, or whether these behaviors lead to mental health problems.

Full story of mental health among low income adults at Science Daily

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Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Anxiety Linked to Chest Pain in Children

Anxiety Linked to Chest Pain in ChildrenPsychological factors can have as much-or more-impact on pediatric chest pain as physical ones, a University of Georgia study found recently. UGA psychologists discovered pediatric patients diagnosed with noncardiac chest pain have higher levels of anxiety and depression than patients diagnosed with innocent heart murmurs-the noise of normal turbulent blood flow in a structurally normal heart.

The UGA research was done in collaboration with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University.

"The fact that these psychological symptoms are higher in noncardiac chest pain patients suggests the psychological symptoms may be playing a role in the presentation of chest pain," said Jennifer Lee, a doctoral candidate in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and the study’s lead author.

The results of the study, which were published Nov. 5 in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology, show a statistically significant increase in anxiety and depression among patients who are later diagnosed with noncardiac chest pain when compared to patients diagnosed with innocent heart murmurs. Lee said it is not clear if the anxiety is a cause of the pain or if pain caused the anxiety in the sample group.

Full story of anxiety linked to chest pain in children at Science Daily

Photos courtesy of and copyright PhotoPin, http://photopin.com/

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education