Yale researchers found a new type of association between overeating, stress, and depression.
A group of scientists at Yale University found that overeating, stress and depression may be closely linked. From their research, they learned that people that tend to overeat and are under a lot of stress may have a higher risk of anxiety and depression than their peers who are not affected by eating disorders.
In a rat study, Yale researchers used an anesthetic called ketamine to treat the depressive symptoms in laboratory animals that were forced to overeat high-fat foods.
Study authors found that the anesthetic helped rats cope with their depression in a similar way it helped stressed and depressed people. Yet, researchers underscored that the effects of the chemical on human brain are currently subject of several clinical trials.
Ronald Duman, co-author of the study and professor at the Elizabeth Mears and House Jameson, noted that there is a link between overeating and chronic stress. Additionally, overeating and fat diets in general may promote depression and type 2 diabetes.
The study, which was published in the journal Neuropharmacology, revealed that ketamine is efficient in alleviating symptoms of depression in patients that struggle with the condition for a long time. This may be because the anesthetic helps the brain rebuild the brain cell connections that are damaged by either depression or stress by activating the mTORC pathway.
mTORC also plays a role in metabolic processes and how energy is stored and produced. So, this may be why patients affected by diabetes and other metabolic disorder may also be more prone to depression.
The Yale team wanted to know whether diet could trigger depression as well, not only metabolic disorders. For this purpose, laboratory rats were put on a high-fat diet and fed six times more food than they needed based on their age, size, and physical activity.
After just four months, brain scans showed that synaptic pathways and metabolism weren’t functioning as normal. Additionally, the laboratory animals displayed depression- and anxiety-like symptoms.
The recent study is at odds with several other studies that had found depression, anxiety and/or stress are the main culprits in people’s tendency to overeat. A recent research found that some depressed/stressed people resort to comfort food to temporarily alleviate their symptoms.
But as the behavior usually takes a toll on their health and weight, those people tend to get even more depressed and stressed leading to a ‘vicious cycle.’
To end the vicious cycle experts recommend taking a minute to seek the real reasons behind depression, stress, or anxiety. Additionally, people should engage in physical activity at least three times per week to help their brains produce ‘feel good’ hormones that act as a natural anesthetic in alleviating symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression.