Exam days are not easy, it is filled with stress and anxiety and a lot of us have been guilty of tending towards junk food for solace. This common habit of adolescents and young adults puts them at an increased risk of stress. Eating a poor-quality diet, including less fruit and vegetables and more fast food, can prove to be very detrimental to your brain, said the researchers. The study was published in the European Journal of Nutrition. The study said that students have difficulties eating healthy food and often adopt bad eating habits, leading to stress.
"Stress has long been implicated in a poor diet. People tend to report overeating and comfort eating foods high in fat, sugar and calories in times of stress.
"Our findings looking at the eating habits of students during exam periods confirm this stress-induced dietary deterioration hypothesis," said Nathalie Michels, lead researcher from Ghent University in Belgium.
For the study, the researchers analysed data retrieved from an online survey of 232 students (aged 19-22 years) recruited from Ghent University and other universities in Belgium.
To analyse their response, they investigated the relationship between exam stress and change in dietary quality. They also studied if these possible associations were modified by psychosocial factors such as eating behaviour, food choice motive, taste preference, reward/punishment sensitivity, impulsivity, coping strategies, sedentary behaviour and social support.
It was observed that during their month-long exam period, participants found it harder to stick to a healthy diet. The researchers also revealed that only a quarter fulfilled the WHO recommended 400g of fruit and vegetables a day.
"To fight against stress-induced eating, prevention strategies should integrate psychological and lifestyle aspects including stress management (like emotion regulation training, mindfulness, yoga), nutritional education with techniques for self-effectiveness, awareness of eating-without-hunger, and creating an environment that stimulates a healthy diet and physical activity", Michels elaborated.
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