According to a study, marital rows and depression can lead to people putting on pounds. Arguing with your partner and a history of depression can increase the risk for obesity in adults since it alters how the body processes high-fat foods.
Researchers roped in 43 healthy couples ages 24 to 61, who had been married for at least three years. They were asked to fill out surveys on marital satisfaction, past mood disorders, and symptoms of depression. Following that, all the participants were fed high-fat foods that included eggs, turkey sausage, savory biscuits made from dough, and gravy that totaled 980 calories and 60 grams of fat. This high-fat meal was designed to mimic a typical fast-food meal, with a similar nutritional value.
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For seven hours after the meal, at every 20-minute intervals, researchers measured the number of calories burned by each participant. Their blood samples were drawn as well to assess insulin, which regulates fat storage in cells, and triglycerides, blood fats that increase the risk of heart disease when present in high amounts, which were then compared to baseline levels.
In between, the couples were asked to discuss and try to resolve one or more issues that they were facing in their relationships. Common topics included money, communication, and in-laws. These discussions were recorded and then assessed, where the researchers looked for verbal and nonverbal signs of hostility.
The researchers concluded that participants with both a history of mood disorder and a more hostile marriage burned an average of 31 fewer calories per hour than those from a less hostile marriage. These couples in hostile marriages also had an average of 12 percent more insulin in their blood than the couples in less hostile marriages.
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Lead author of the study, Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, Ph.D., is a psychiatry professor and the director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at The Ohio State University. She said that the study revealed how important it is to treat mental health problems. She said,
“These findings not only identify how chronic stressors can lead to obesity, but also point to how important it is to treat mood disorders. Interventions for mental health clearly could benefit physical health as well.”
Further, she said,
“Our results probably underestimate the health risks because the effects of only one meal were analyzed. Most people eat every four to five hours, and often dine with their spouses. Meals provide prime opportunities for ongoing disagreements in a troubled marriage, so there could be a longstanding pattern of metabolic damage stemming from hostility and depression.”
Talking about the connection between a hostile relationship and depression, she said,
“The idea that if your primary relationship is going badly, what should be your major source of support becomes your major source of stress. A hostile relationship could certainly affect health even among people who eat healthier meals.”
So it’s best to work on improving your relationship to protect your body. And Kiecolt-Glaser said that if you or your spouse is feeling depressed, it’s better to seek out clinical treatment and/or practicing holistic mood-enhancers like exercising, eating well, and seeking social support from friends and family.
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