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Fast food may be a sign of stress, leading to weight gain

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Updated: 7/14 10:09 pm

(NBC) Stopping at your local fast food drive thru is fast and easy. That's the requirement Tania Sarria has for her meals.

She puts in at least ten hours a day as a project manager for a software services company. Sarria says her stressful schedule doesn't allow for much else.

"You take a quick 15-20 minutes to go grab your food and then you bring it back to your desk, dial into your meeting and you try to eat it in between your meetings," Sarria said.

Fast food is a proven contributor to obesity and now a small study out of Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center suggests women who eat those meals while stressed may pack on more pounds.

Researchers asked nearly sixty middle-age women to discuss how stressful their lives were the day before.

They then fed them a high fat meal to see how their metabolisms reacted.

"When the women reported having at least one stressor in their life the day before we were doing the test, that actually reduced their ability to burn calories." says Dr.Martha Belury of Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.

Dr. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, of Ohio State Wexner Medical Center says even a few extra calories can add up.

"the difference was about 104 calories. Which is no big deal for a single day, but if you took that across a year, it could be almost 11 pounds," says Dr. Kiecolt-Glaser

Outside experts say it's important to note that two-thirds of the participants were breast cancer survivors who weighed slightly more than the other women and they were more likely to be depressed; factors that could skew the results.

Also, little was known about how their past treatment may have impacted their metabolism.

Experts say one message is clear, turning to high-fat food while stressed may satisfy your need for convenient comfort foods, but it may not be comforting the next time you step on a scale.

-- Erika Edwards reports

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