Animal studies suggest a relationship between blunted HPA-axis stress reactivity and increased stress-induced food intake in chronically stressed animals. Such a relationship can potentially explain the underlying mechanisms of emotional eating in humans. However, no studies have experimentally tested the relationship between stress-induced cortisol responses and acute food intake in high and low emotional eaters. We studied these effects in 46 female students that were preselected on the basis of extremely high (HEE) or low (LEE) scores on an emotional eating questionnaire. Using a within subject design we measured the difference of actual food intake after a control or a stress task (Trier Social Stress Test). The HEE and LEE groups did not differ in their cortisol stress reactivity but emotional eating significantly moderated the relationship between cortisol stress reactivity and the difference of food intake after stress vs control. Whereas HEE participants with a blunted cortisol stress response ate more food after distress than those with an elevated cortisol stress response, LEE participants showed no such relationship. These findings support the relevance of an animal based model on the relationship between a blunted cortisol stress response and increased stress-induced food intake for human high emotional eaters. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
van Strien, T., Roelofs, K., & de Weerth, C. (2013). Cortisol reactivity and distress-induced emotional eating. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 38(5), 677-684. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2012.08.008