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


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.

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The study was supported in part by NIH grants CA154054, CA172296, UL1TRR025755 and CA016058. The sponsor had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis and interpretation of the data; and preparation, review or approval of the manuscript. We are grateful to Michael Di Gregorio, MA, for his role as a key organizer and experimenter, and to Bryon Laskowski for laboratory analyses.

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Correspondence to J K Kiecolt-Glaser.

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NIH has funded work by JK-G, WBM, CPF and MAB. The remaining authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Kiecolt-Glaser, J., Fagundes, C., Andridge, R. et al. Depression, daily stressors and inflammatory responses to high-fat meals: when stress overrides healthier food choices. Mol Psychiatry 22, 476–482 (2017).

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