Depression, daily stressors and inflammatory responses to high-fat meals: when stress overrides healthier food choices

Mol Psychiatry. 2017 Mar;22(3):476-482. doi: 10.1038/mp.2016.149. Epub 2016 Sep 20.


Depression, stress and diet can all alter inflammation. This double-blind, randomized crossover study addressed the impact of daily stressors and a history of major depressive disorder (MDD) on inflammatory responses to high-fat meals. During two separate 9.5 h admissions, 58 healthy women (38 breast cancer survivors and 20 demographically similar controls), mean age 53.1 years, received either a high saturated fat meal or a high oleic sunflower oil meal. The Daily Inventory of Stressful Events assessed prior day stressors and the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV evaluated MDD. As expected, for a woman with no prior day stressors, C-reactive protein (CRP), serum amyloid A (SAA), intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (sICAM-1) and vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (sVCAM-1) were higher following the saturated fat meal than the high oleic sunflower oil meal after controlling for pre-meal measures, age, trunk fat and physical activity. But if a woman had prior day stressors, these meal-related differences disappeared-because the stressors heightened CRP, SAA, sICAM-1 and sVCAM-1 responses to the sunflower oil meal, making it look more like the responses to the saturated fat meal. In addition, women with an MDD history had higher post-meal blood pressure responses than those without a similar history. These data show how recent stressors and an MDD history can reverberate through metabolic alterations, promoting inflammatory and atherogenic responses.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • C-Reactive Protein
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Depression / diet therapy
  • Depression / metabolism*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / metabolism
  • Diet
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects*
  • Diet, High-Fat / psychology
  • Dietary Fats
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / psychology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood
  • Inflammation / diet therapy
  • Intercellular Adhesion Molecule-1 / blood
  • Middle Aged
  • Postprandial Period / physiology
  • Serum Amyloid A Protein
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism*
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Vascular Cell Adhesion Molecule-1 / blood


  • Dietary Fats
  • Serum Amyloid A Protein
  • Triglycerides
  • Vascular Cell Adhesion Molecule-1
  • Intercellular Adhesion Molecule-1
  • C-Reactive Protein