Psychology and Social Sciences



Download Full Text (434 KB)


Nicolas Giorgianni, Psychology and Cassandra Lewandowski, Psychology
Faculty Mentor: Professor Naomi McKay, Psychology

Though a relationship between stress and hyperphagia has been established, little research exists that examines the underlying physiological mechanisms that may cause this relationship. Rodent research suggests that ghrelin (a feeding-stimulatory hormone) may play a crucial role in stress-eating behaviors. The purpose of the current study was two-fold. First, to determine if stress mediates ghrelin release and second, whether consuming a meal after a stressor will affect the ghrelin feeding response. It was hypothesized that ghrelin would increase in the presence of stress and that the intake of a high-carbohydrate/low-fat food item would suppress ghrelin more than a high-fat/low-carbohydrate food item. Upon arrival, participants provided a saliva sample (for cortisol) and were fitted with an indwelling intravenous catheter for blood collections (for ghrelin). After a 45-min relaxation period, a blood and saliva sample were collected, and participants were divided into stress condition groups (stress or no stress), with those in the stress condition undergoing a mild, laboratory stressor. Following the stress condition, blood and saliva were collected again and participants were asked to consume either a high-fat, high-carbohydrate or no food condition. Fifteen minutes after food condition, saliva and blood samples were collected again, and a final blood collection occurred 75-mins after food condition. A mixed-design ANOVA showed an interaction of time x stress (p = .002) and found elevated ghrelin levels were present in participants who underwent the stressor (p = 0.08). These results indicate that stress may stimulate food intake through an elevation in the feeding-stimulatory hormone ghrelin.

Publication Date


Ghrelin and the Stress Response
Off-campus Download