Stress is as bad as a high-fat diet for women, new research suggests.
Exposure to stressful situations may change women’s gut bacteria without affecting men’s, a study found.
Study author Professor Laura Bridgewater from Brigham Young University, said: ‘In society, women tend to have higher rates of depression and anxiety, which are linked to stress. This study suggests that a possible source of the gender discrepancy may be the different ways gut microbiota responds to stress in males versus females.’
Previous research has linked a healthy gut to improved immunity, weight control and mental health.
High-fat diets are thought to disrupt gut bacteria, leading to high-blood sugar levels and inflammation, which can cause heart disease, arthritis and even cancer.
Stress may put women at risk of a range of diseases by changing their gut bacteria (stock)
TRENDY MINDFULNESS REDUCES STRESS LEVELS BY MORE THAN HALF BY CHANGING THE BRAIN’S STRUCTURE
Trendy mindfulness reduces stress levels by more than half by changing the structure of the brain, research revealed earlier this month.
Mindfulness, which involves paying attention to the present moment, relieves tension by 51 per cent by boosting regions of the brain associated with attention, function and compassion, a study found.
The ancient Buddhist meditation, which is championed by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Emma Watson, and is even recommended by the NHS, also makes people feel better within themselves, the research adds.
In particular, practicing mindfulness by sharing challenging experiences with others may help to reduce social shame, which is a common trigger for stress, according to the researchers.
Lead author Professor Tania Singer from the Max Planck Institute of Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany, said: ‘As empathy, compassion and perspective-taking are crucial competencies for successful social interactions, conflict resolution and cooperation, these findings are highly relevant’.
How the research was carried out
The researchers exposed mice to stress for 18 days. Beforehand, half were fed a high-fat diet for 16 weeks.
After 12 weeks of eating fatty food and 136 days of enduring stressful situations, the mice’s fecal samples were investigated to determine any gut bacteria change.
Stress was induced in various ways including suspending the mice by the tail, playing predator sounds and tilting their cage.
‘Women tend to have higher rates of depression and anxiety’
Results reveal only female mice’s gut bacteria changes as much following stressful situations as it does after eating a high-fat diet.
It is unclear why this occurs, however, the researchers believe the findings demonstrate women may be more vulnerable to the effects of stress.
Professor Bridgewater said: ‘In society, women tend to have higher rates of depression and anxiety, which are linked to stress.
‘This study suggests that a possible source of the gender discrepancy may be the different ways gut microbiota responds to stress in males versus females.’
Previous research reveals a healthy gut plays a role in maintaining immunity, weight and mental health.
Past studies have also shown eating high-fat diets alters gut bacteria composition, leading to raised blood sugar levels, which is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, and inflammation, which is linked to a range of conditions, including heart disease, arthritis and even cancer.
The findings were published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.