Stress may add bite to appetite in women: a laboratory study of stress-induced cortisol and eating behavior

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2001 Jan;26(1):37-49. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4530(00)00035-4.


To date, there are few known predictors of stress-induced eating. The purpose of this study was to identify whether physiological and psychological variables are related to eating after stress. Specifically, we hypothesized that high cortisol reactivity in response to stress may lead to eating after stress, given the relations between cortisol with both psychological stress and mechanisms affecting hunger. To test this, we exposed fifty-nine healthy pre-menopausal women to both a stress session and a control session on different days. High cortisol reactors consumed more calories on the stress day compared to low reactors, but ate similar amounts on the control day. In terms of taste preferences, high reactors ate significantly more sweet food across days. Increases in negative mood in response to the stressors were also significantly related to greater food consumption. These results suggest that psychophysiological response to stress may influence subsequent eating behavior. Over time, these alterations could impact both weight and health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Appetite*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Diet, Reducing
  • Eating*
  • Educational Status
  • Energy Intake
  • Female
  • Food Preferences
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood*
  • Income
  • Premenopause
  • Stress, Physiological / physiopathology*


  • Hydrocortisone