3 Surprising Effects of Stress

It’s well-known that chronic exposure to stress has a knock-on effect on just about everything, from sleep and mood to physical issues like an increased risk of obesity and diabetes. What’s perhaps more surprising is just how pervasive and damaging it is, with the ability to trigger serious, long-term cognitive decline being just one such effect.

It can shrink your brain

Stress is particularly bad for cognitive health, with studies showing that prolonged and cumulative stress can damage the prefrontal cortex, the area in the brain that regulates thoughts, actions and emotions, which causes the brain to shrink and the connections that are needed for cognition and memory to decrease. Serious long terms stress is also a big risk factor in brain conditions like dementia.

It can erase the nutrient value from food

While stress can often cause us to overeat or, skip meals altogether, its impact on our metabolism is fascinating. According to one study, eating and then experiencing  stress within two hours of each other can cause your body to metabolise an extra 104 calories from your food. The same study revealed that even eating healthy fats around the time of high stress causes the body to metabolise them in the same way that it does bad fats, effectively cancelling out the benefits of the healthier fats.

It can increase the likelihood of addiction

It may be a well-known risk factor in health issues like cardiac disease and obesity but chronic stress is also linked to a higher risk of addictive behaviours such as drug use and drinking. Excess cortisol can over time, impair the parts of the brain responsible for memory am learning, leaving the brain more vulnerable, particularly to addictive behaviours.