Does Fatty Food Impact Marital Stress?

Contact Information

Available for logged-in reporters only

New Study Looks for Impact of High Fat Diets on Interpersonal Relationships

Newswise — COLUMBUS, Ohio – Today’s busy families often rely on fast food and take-out to keep everyone fed and on schedule. Researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center want to know whether those types of food, which are often high in saturated fat, impact the body’s reaction to stress.

The recently launched study is for married couples and conducted by the husband and wife team of Ron Glaser, director of The Ohio State University College of Medicine’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research; and Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, a professor at the same institute. Both have spent more than three decades studying stress and its physical effects.

“In the marital studies we conduct, we’re also interested in how close personal relationships can either be protective or make things more difficult,” says Kiecolt-Glaser, who is also principal investigator of the study.

The research is designed to help gain an understanding of the physiological differences in the body’s responses to a fast-food type meal compared to a healthier meal, and how the discussion of a stressful topic can impact health.

As part of the study, married couples are asked to attend two day-long research sessions together at Ohio State’s Clinical Research Center. During each visit, blood samples are taken and the couples eat meals that appear identical. At one visit, the food is high in saturated fat. However, the other meal is low in saturated fat. The couples are asked to discuss a stressful subject in their marriage, such as finances, in-laws, annoying habits, etc. More blood is taken afterward to determine if the stressful discussions influence how the body processes the fat in the food by looking for changes in triglycerides.

“What you’re eating may actually interact with your behavior, to make things worse in terms of your physiological response,” says Kiecolt-Glaser. “In previous studies, when discussions got a little more heated we saw bigger changes in stress hormones and larger changes in immune response. In this study, we theorize that after the high saturated fat meal, a negative discussion might increase physiological responses more steeply.”

Kiecolt-Glaser, Glaser and their team are looking for changes in pro-inflammatory cytokines in the couples’ blood samples. These proteins are part of the immune response and start the healing process after an infection, injury or other tissue damage that leads to inflammation. Previous research by Kiecolt-Glaser and Glaser has shown when stress causes cytokines, particularly interleukin-6 (IL-6), to remain elevated in the blood stream too long, they contribute to long-term inflammation which is linked to a number of age-related diseases including diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease and cancer. Glaser says stress isn’t the only factor that can keep levels of cytokines elevated; fat can too.

“Fat cells around the abdomen, called adipocytes, also make cytokines. So the more fat you have around your waist, the higher levels of these cytokines you have, and the more health risks you have,” says Glaser who is also a professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics. “It’s really about the processes of how stress affects the body. When we start learning about the processes, then we can try to find ways to modify them.”

The study is expected to wrap up in 2014 and is funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Ohio State Center for Clinical and Translational Science, a collaboration of scientists and clinicians from seven OSU Health Science Colleges, Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center and Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

###
Broadcast quality video and still photos are available at: http://bit.ly/zCCHVF
About The Ohio State University Center for Clinical and Translational Science
Dedicated to turning the scientific discoveries of today into the life-changing health innovations of tomorrow, The Ohio State University Center for Clinical and Translational Science (OSU CCTS) is a collaboration of experts including scientists and clinicians from seven OSU Health Science Colleges, OSU Medical Center and Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Funded by a multi-year Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) from the National Institutes of Health, OSU CCTS provides financial, organizational and educational support to biomedical researchers as well as opportunities for community members to participate in credible and valuable research. The CCTS is led by Rebecca Jackson, M.D., Director of the CCTS and associate dean of research at Ohio State. For more information, visit http://ccts.osu.edu.

About the Clinical and Translational Science Awards
Launched in 2006 by the NIH, and currently residing in the newly created National Center for the Advancement of Translational Sciences (NCATS), the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program created academic homes for clinical and translational science at research institutions across the country. The CTSA’s primary goals are to speed the time it takes for basic science to turn into useable therapeutics that directly improve human health, and to train the next generation of clinicians and translational researchers.


Comment/Share