There are a number of unhealthy ways to cope with pressure and anxiety, but "stress eating" candy and chips -- or turning to alcohol and energy drinks -- might just take the proverbial cake. Paradoxically, when dealing with stress, the body frequently craves precisely the foods that will exacerbate the condition most.
"When they're stressed, people go naturally to the wrong foods because they increase levels of [the stress hormone] cortisol," Heather Bauer, R.D., founder of Bestowed.com, told the Huffington Post. "People tend to crave foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt because those directly increase our cortisol levels."
But before you head to the vending machine for a quick fix for your stressful work day, click through the slideshow below to see what foods you should avoid when under pressure. Instead, try one of these stress-busting superfoods.
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Maternal stress is a key risk factor for neurodevelopmental disorders, including schizophrenia and autism, which often exhibit a sex bias in rates of presentation, age of onset, and symptom severity. The placenta is an endocrine tissue that functions as an important mediator in responding to perturbations in the intrauterine environment and is accessible for diagnostic purposes, potentially providing biomarkers predictive of disease.
Researchers, from the University of Pennsylvania, have used a genome-wide array approach to screen placental expression across pregnancy for gene candidates that are sex-biased and stress-responsive in mice and translate to human tissue. They identifed O-linked-N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) transferase (OGT), an X-linked gene important in regulating proteins and involved in chromatin remodeling, as fitting these criteria. Levels of both OGT and its biochemical mark, O-GlcNAcylation, were significantly lower in males and further reduced by prenatal stress. Examination of human placental tissue found similar patterns related to X chromosome dosage. As a demonstration of the importance of placental OGT in neurodevelopment, they found that hypothalamic gene expression and the broad epigenetic microRNA environment in the neonatal brain of placental-specific hemizygous OGT mice was substantially altered. These studies identified OGT as a promising placental biomarker of maternal stress exposure that may relate to sex-biased outcomes in neurodevelopment.
Other studies have found similar results in human male babies, and that those exposed to stress in the first trimester are at an increased risk of developing schizophrenia, the University of Pennsylvania press reported.
In this latest study, the researchers have pinpointed the biomarker that shows the difference in the stress response between male and female babies.
"Most everything experienced by a woman during a pregnancy has to interact with the placenta in order to transmit to the foetus," said Tracy Bale, lead author on the paper. "Now we have a marker that appears to signal to the foetus that its mother has experienced stress."
The authors believe that the particular enzyme expression that is affected, and shows increased reduction in male placentas, may protect the brain during gestation. This, in turn, places the male offspring at risk of abnormal neurodevelopment if the mother is stressed during pregnancy.
The researchers hope this finding will help them identify at-risk individuals. "We want to get to the point where we can predict the occurrence of neurodevelopmental disease," Bale said. "If we have a marker for exposure, we can meld that with what we know about the genetic profiles that predispose individuals to these conditions and keep a close eye on children who have increased risks."
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