Non-human animal studies demonstrate relationships between stress and selective intake of palatable food. In humans, exposure to laboratory stressors and self-reported stress are associated with greater food intake. Large studies have yet to examine chronic stress exposure and eating behavior. The current study assessed the relationship between stress (perceived and chronic), drive to eat, and reported food frequency intake (nutritious food vs. palatable non-nutritious food) in women ranging from normal weight to obese (N=457). Greater reported stress, both exposure and perception, was associated with indices of greater drive to eat-including feelings of disinhibited eating, binge eating, hunger, and more ineffective attempts to control eating (rigid restraint; r's from .11 to .36, p's<.05). These data suggest that stress exposure may lead to a stronger drive to eat and may be one factor promoting excessive weight gain. Relationships between stress and eating behavior are of importance to public health given the concurrent increase in reported stress and obesity rates.
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