Effects of food on cortisol and mood in vulnerable subjects under controllable and uncontrollable stress

C.R. Markus*, G Panhuysen, A. Tuiten, H Koppeschaar

*Corresponding author for this work

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The aim of this study was to investigate whether in stress-prone subjects, carbohydrate-rich, protein-poor food (cr/pp) diminished depressive mood and a cortisol response under controllable as well as uncontrollable laboratory stress. Twenty-two subjects with high stress proneness (hs) and 23 subjects with low stress proneness (ls) participated in a controllable- and uncontrollable-stress experiment during either a cr/pp or protein-rich, carbohydrate-poor (pr/cp) diet. Both controllable and uncontrollable laboratory stress significantly increased pulse rate and skin conductance in hs and ls subjects, whereas uncontrollable stress increased feelings of depression, anger, tension, and fatigue and decreased feelings of vigor. Only in hs subjects, a cortisol response and feelings of depression became lower under the cr/pp diet condition, irrespective of the controllability of the laboratory stressor, suggesting an increased ability to cope with stress. Because the cr/pp diet compared with the pr/cp diet previously has been found to cause a 42% increase in plasma tryptophan/slnaa, seen as an indirect measure of increases in brain serotonin levels, the present results suggest that an enhanced serotonin function in hs subjects may be involved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-342
JournalPhysiology & Behavior
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2000
Externally publishedYes

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