A new study suggests stress is just as harmful  as a poor diet — especially for women.

The research, carried out by a team of researchers at Brigham Young University in Utah, US,  found that stress can be just unhealthy to our bodies as junk food.

Published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, what the study found was, when a female mice exposed to stress and to high-fat diets showed similar changes to their gut microorganisms (microbiota) — the catch-all name for the billions of intestine-dwelling microorganisms vital to digestive and metabolic health.

Bridgewater and her collaborators studied a large group of 8-week old mice and exposed half males and half females to a high-fat diet. After 16 weeks, all of the mice were exposed to “chronic unpredictable mild stress” over the course of 18 days.

The researchers then extracted microbial DNA from fecal pellets of mice before and after the stress to test how it affected the gut microbiota. They found that males exhibited more anxiety than females on a high-fat diet, and it was only in female mice the stress caused the change in the composition of gut microbiota as if they were on a high-fat diet. With this study researchers believe there are could be significant implications for humans.

Image: womendisease.com
Image: womendisease.com

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.”

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.

Read also: Study Shows Italian Cheese Can Aid In The Fight Against Hypertension

– Cover Image: mystressnomore.com