Stress Responsiveness and Emotional Eating Depend on Youngsters’ Chronic Stress Level and Overweight

Kathleen Wijnant*, Joanna Klosowska, Caroline Braet, Sandra Verbeken, Stefaan De Henauw, Lynn Vanhaecke, Nathalie Michels

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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The persistent coexistence of stress and paediatric obesity involves interrelated psychophysiological mechanisms, which are believed to function as a vicious circle. Here, a key mechanistic role is assumed for stress responsiveness and eating behaviour. After a stress induction by the Trier Social Stress Test in youngsters (n = 137, 50.4% boys, 6–18 years), specifically those high in chronic stress level and overweight (partial η2 = 0.03–0.07) exhibited increased stress vulnerability (stronger relative salivary cortisol reactivity and weaker happiness recovery) and higher fat/sweet snack intake, compared to the normal-weight and low-stress reference group. Stress responsiveness seems to stimulate unhealthy and emotional eating, i.e., strong cortisol reactivity was linked to higher fat/sweet snack intake (β = 0.22) and weak autonomic system recovery was linked to high total and fat/sweet snack intake (β = 0.2–0.3). Additionally, stress responsiveness acted as a moderator. As a result, stress responsiveness and emotional eating might be targets to prevent stress-induced overweight.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3654
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2021


  • psychosocial stress
  • emotional eating
  • overweight
  • obesity
  • stress responsiveness
  • stress reactivity
  • cortisol reactivity
  • adolescents


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