Mediterranean diet helps reduce stress effects

Even ahead of the pandemic and the presidential election, Americans reported a few of the highest perceived quantities of stress in the global world, in line with the American Psychological Association. Not just does stress have side effects on work and personal relationships, it does increase the risk of several chronic conditions also, such as cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease, and is connected with higher mortality rates.

But eating a Mediterranean diet might provide a relatively easy method to help lessen the physiological aftereffects of stress and promote healthy aging, based on a brand new study conducted by researchers at Wake Forest School of Medicine, element of Wake Forest Baptist Health.

Findings from the scholarly study, the very first preclinical trial to assess the effects of long-term use of a Western versus Mediterranean diet on stress under controlled experimental conditions, are published in the present online edition of the journal Neurobiology of Stress.

“It’s very difficult to manage or reduce stressors within our lives,” said Carol A. Shively, Ph.D., professor of pathology and comparative medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine and principal investigator of the research. “But we can say for certain that individuals can control our diet, and previous observational studies have suggested that lower perceived stress is related to high vegetable and fruit consumption.

“Unfortunately, Americans consume an eating plan full of animal protein and saturated fat, sugar and salt, so we desired to discover if that diet worsened your body’s response to stress when compared with a Mediterranean diet, by which a lot of the protein and fat originate from plant sources.”

The researchers studied the results of the chronic stress of low social status and the acute stress to be socially isolated for thirty minutes in 38 middle-age animals which were fed whether Mediterranean or Western diet. The diets were formulated to reflect human diets closely, with protein and fat derived largely from animal sources in the Western group and primarily from plant sources in the Mediterranean group.

To determine the diets’ impact on stress responses, the scientists measured changes in the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems and in the adrenal gland hormone cortisol, in reaction to chronic and acute stress.

The sympathetic nervous system is active in the “fight or flight” response and regulates bodily processes such as heartbeat and blood pressure. The parasympathetic nervous system has opposite effects that help the physical body come back to a calmer state. High sympathetic nervous system activity may be damaging to health, so maintaining a healthier balance involving the two systems is very important, Shively said.

Cortisol, your body’s main stress hormone, helps the physical body access resources had a need to fight or flee. However, if stress is continuous, cortisol levels stay high and damage tissues.

Compared to animals fed a Western diet, those fed the Mediterranean diet exhibited enhanced stress resilience as indicated by lower sympathetic nervous system and cortisol responses to stress, and much more rapid recovery following the stress ended, Shively said.

“Our study showed that the Mediterranean diet shifted the total amount toward the parasympathetic nervous system, that is great for health,” Shively said. “In comparison, the Western diet increased the sympathetic a reaction to stress, that is like obtaining the panic button on constantly — and that’s not healthy.”

As the animals aged within the 31-month study, that is comparable to about 9 years in humans, the extensive research group noted that sympathetic nervous system activity increased. However, the Mediterranean diet slowed the aging of the sympathetic nervous system.

The study’s findings declare that population-wide adoption of a Mediterranean-like diet might provide a somewhat simple and cost-effective intervention to cut back the negative impact of psychological stress on health insurance and delay nervous system aging, Shively said.

The scholarly study was supported by the National Institutes of Health R01HL087103, RF1AG058829, R01HL122393, U24DK097748, and the Wake Forest Claude D. Pepper Older American Independence Center P30AG012332.