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Determining the Culprit: Stress, Fat, or Carbohydrates

Published:December 09, 2014DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.10.027
      The article by Kiecolt-Glaser et al. (
      • Kiecolt-Glaser J.K.
      • Habash D.L.
      • Fagundes C.P.
      • Andridge R.
      • Peng J.
      • Malarkey W.B.
      • Belury M.A.
      Daily stressors, past depression, and metabolic responses to high-fat meals: A novel path to obesity.
      ) suggests that a high-fat diet in the setting of depression or recent life stressors leads to weight gain via decreased metabolic rate and increased hormonal influences on fat storage. This study gives insight into an interesting relationship between stress and energy expenditure, but we believe that the label “high-fat” may perpetuate a negative, and not necessarily true, association with this type of diet and weight gain. Carbohydrates are another class of macronutrients that are implicated in slowing metabolism and leading to obesity. A controlled crossover study by Ebbeling et al. (
      • Ebbeling C.B.
      • Swain J.F.
      • Feldman H.A.
      • Wong W.W.
      • Hachey D.L.
      • Garcia-Lago E.
      • Ludwig D.S.
      Effects of dietary composition on energy expenditure during weight-loss maintenance.
      ) showed that there was a sustained decrease in metabolic rate in patients on a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet compared with a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. Additionally, a recent randomized trial by Bazzano et al. (
      • Bazzano L.A.
      • Hu T.
      • Reynolds K.
      • Yao L.
      • Bunol C.
      • Liu Y.
      • et al.
      Effects of low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets: A randomized trial.
      ) comparing calorie-unrestricted versions of these two diets concluded that the high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet might provide a better avenue for weight reduction and have certain metabolic risk factor advantages.
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      References

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        • Habash D.L.
        • Fagundes C.P.
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      Linked Article

      • Stress, Depression, and Metabolism: Replies to Bohan Brown et al. and Barton and Yancy
        Biological PsychiatryVol. 78Issue 4
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          We recently reported adverse metabolic alterations related to stress and depression following high-fat meals (1). In their response our article, Bohan Brown et al. (2) raise an interesting question related to our caloric calculations; they suggest that the differences we observed would translate to a gain of 6.4 lb/year compared with the 10.8 lb/year that we had computed based on the 3500 kcal rule. Their argument is based on newer literature that has primarily addressed decreased caloric expenditure as weight loss occurs, but we acknowledge that the state of the field is such that we cannot calculate the total caloric impact over time with certainty.
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