Potential antitode to stress-induced eating

Masih, Tasmiah, et al. “Stress-induced eating and the relaxation response as a potential antidote: A review and hypothesis.” Appetite, online 5 Aug 2017. 

Abstract. There is an accumulating body of evidence to indicate that stress leads to the consumption of unhealthy, energy-dense, palatable food, potentially contributing to the alarming global prevalence of chronic diseases, including obesity. However, comparatively little research has been devoted to addressing how best to remedy this growing problem.

We provide an overview of the influence of stress on dietary intake, and then explore the novel, yet simple, possibility that regular elicitation of the relaxation response may effectively reduce stress-induced eating via both physiological and psychological pathways. If shown to be effective, the regular practice of relaxation may provide a convenient, cost efficient, patient-centered therapeutic practice to assist in the prevention of unhealthy weight gain and other negative consequences of unhealthy food intake.

Brief chair yoga or guided meditation improve markers of stress

Melville, G. W., et al. (2012). Fifteen Minutes of Chair-Based Yoga Postures or Guided Meditation Performed in the Office Can Elicit a Relaxation Response. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. (Abstract]. Published online. Read full text.

This study compared acute (15 min) yoga posture and guided meditation practice, performed seated in a typical office workspace, on physiological and psychological markers of stress. Twenty participants completed three conditions: yoga, meditation, and control (i.e., usual work) separated by ≥24 hrs. Yoga and meditation significantly reduced perceived stress versus control, and this effect was maintained postintervention. Yoga increased heart rate while meditation reduced heart rate versus control.

Respiration rate was reduced during yoga and meditation versus control. Domains of heart rate variability were significantly reduced during control versus yoga and meditation. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure were reduced secondary to meditation versus control only. Physiological adaptations generally regressed toward baseline postintervention.

In conclusion, yoga postures or meditation performed in the office can acutely improve several physiological and psychological markers of stress. These effects may be at least partially mediated by reduced respiration rate.