How does stress affect cravings?


Stress has a significant influence on cravings, particularly for high-calorie foods like sugar and fat, which can drive compulsive eating behaviors. explains that chronic stress creates a feedback loop that exacerbates the desire for these so-called comfort foods. It also leads to potential dysfunction in the adrenal output, contributing to health issues like type 2 diabetes. The key is to manage stress effectively to prevent these cravings from taking over 1.

In another discussion, Dr. Elissa Epel discusses how chronic stress leads to binge eating behaviors in both humans and animal models. Stress-induced cravings are due to hormonal changes that encourage the body to store fat, especially abdominal fat, as a quick energy source during stressful times. These physiological responses are wired to maximize energy reserves and coping mechanisms during perceived continuous threats 2.

Additionally, Elissa highlights the role of the opioid system in stress-induced eating patterns. During stress, people with obesity exhibit heightened reward responses from their brain centers involved in pleasure and reward, further driving the cravings for unhealthy foods 3.