Going by scientific findings showing the negative impact of stress on health, scientists have affirmed that it is as bad as a highfat diet for women. These are the findings of a study published in the journal ‘Nature Scientific Reports’.

According to the researchers, exposure to stressful situations may change women’s gut bacteria without affecting men’s. Stress is primarily a physical response.

When stressed, the body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adren- aline, cortisol and norepinephrine to prepare the body for physical action.

Although, stress is essential for survival, the chemicals it triggers help human to cope with difficulty, but too much stress can however cause health problems.

Study author, Professor Laura Bridgewater, from Brigham Young University, said: “In society, women tend to have higher rates of depression and anxiety, which are linked to stress.

“This study suggests that a possible source of the gender discrepancy may be the different ways gut microbiota responds to stress in males versus females.”

Gut microbiota (formerly called gut flora) is the name given today to the microbe population living in our intestine. Man’s gut microbiota contains tens of trillions of microorganisms, including at least 1000 different species of known bacteria with more than 3 million genes (150 times more than human genes).

There are around 40 trillion bacteria in the human body, most of which are in the intestines. Collectively, they are known as your gut microbiota.

Previous research has linked a healthy gut to improved immunity, weight control and mental health. High-fat diets are thought to disrupt gut bacteria, leading to high-blood sugar levels and inflammation, which can cause heart disease, arthritis and even cancer.

The researchers exposed mice to stress for 18 days. Beforehand, half were fed a high-fat diet for 16 weeks.

After 12 weeks of eating fatty food and 136 days of enduring stressful situations, the mice’s faecal samples were investigated to determine any gut bacteria change. Stress was induced in various ways including suspending the mice by the tail, playing predator sounds and tilting their cage.

The results revealed that only female mice’s gut bacteria changes as much following stressful situations as it does after eating a high-fat diet, according to a ‘mailonline’ report.

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