“These findings not only identify how chronic stressors can lead to obesity, but also point to how important it is to treat mood disorders,” said study lead author Jan Kiecolt-Glaser from the Ohio State University in the US.
In the study, men and women with a history of depression and whose arguments with their spouses were heated showed several potential metabolic problems after eating a high-fat meal.
They burned fewer calories and had higher levels of insulin as well as spikes in triglyceride levels – a form of fat in the blood.
The reduced calorie-burning in the seven hours after a single meal translated to weight gain of up to 12 pounds (5.4 kg) in a year.
Obesity leads to the emergence of at least three of five factors that increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes.
The study involved 43 healthy couples, ages 24 to 61.
The findings were presented Monday at ScienceWriters2014, a conference hosted this year by Ohio state in the US.