Leptin concentrations in response to acute stress predict subsequent intake of comfort foods

A. Janet Tomiyama, Imke Schamarek, Robert H. Lustig, Clemens Kirschbaum, Eli Puterman, Peter J Havel, Elissa S. Epel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Both animals and humans show a tendency toward eating more "comfort food" (high fat, sweet food) after acute stress. Such stress eating may be contributing to the obesity epidemic, and it is important to understand the underlying psychobiological mechanisms. Prior investigations have studied what makes individuals eat more after stress; this study investigates what might make individuals eat less. Leptin has been shown to increase following a laboratory stressor, and is known to regulate satiety. This study examined whether leptin reactivity accounts for individual differences in stress eating. To test this, we exposed forty women to standardized acute psychological laboratory stress (Trier Social Stress Test) while blood was sampled repeatedly for measurements of plasma leptin. We then measured food intake after the stressor. Increasing leptin during the stressor predicted lower intake of comfort food. These initial findings suggest that acute changes in leptin may be one of the factors modulating down the consumption of comfort food following stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-39
Number of pages6
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 20 2012


  • Cortisol
  • Eating behavior
  • Leptin
  • Stress
  • Stress eating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Philosophy


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