Stress is as awful for your body as cheeseburgers and chocolate bars

from New York Post

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If you’re stressing over whether to order those waffle fries, don’t. The damage has already been done. Stress may be just as bad for our digestion as a fattening diet, according to a study conducte…

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vinay requested a fact check

This article claims that stress is just as bad for you as a fattening diet. Is this claim really supported by the paper cited in this article?

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tagged a misleading statement
Stress is as awful for your body as cheeseburgers and chocolate bars

Taking a look at the referenced paper (the introduction, results and discussion), this claim, or in general the claim that stress is as bad for you as a fattening diet, is not really supported. The paper is actually an study of the different effects that stress and a high fat diet may have on male and female mice, analyzing their impact on gut microbiota (which is related to metabolic processes). Different mice were given a normal chow diet (NCD) or a high fat diet (HFD), and some of them were submitted to stress. Among the ten results the research lists, one of them reads "Stress in females shifted the NCD gut microbiota to resemble the HFD microbiota"; that is, female mice with a normal diet that underwent stress ended up with similar gut microbiota to female mice with a high fat diet. It is specifically pointed out that this effect was not observed on male mice. The authors do not claim, but rather suggest, that these two factors might then have similar effects on female mice; from the final discussion: "Stress caused the NCD gut microbiota to resemble the HFD microbiota—suggesting that stress and HFD can cause similar changes to the gut microbiota in females. Future studies should examine the overall health impact of stress in female mice to see if it resembles the health impact of HFD and obesity, as the microbiota shift observed herein would predict". And while the goal of the study is to improve our understanding of the human body, nowhere it is said that these results should be immediately extrapolated to it. While the headline is completely misleading, the body of the article, to be fair, does explain some of the points in the paper more accurately, although not fully. For example, the article says: "Such a shift suggests that stress might impact metabolism just as much as diet, the researchers wrote", which is not correct, because the research only addresses gut microbiota, and fails to explain the main idea that diet and stress have different effects depending on the mice gender.