Arguing Penguins

Maybe Arguing with Your Spouse Will Make You Fat

It could be that eating your words after arguing with your spouse can make you fat. A study newly published in Psychoneuroendocrinology finds that people with high scores for hostility and a history of depression experience significant metabolic changes when they argue with their spouses. It made a difference of about 128 calories in how many calories they might burn in a day.

Janice Kiecolt-Glaser and colleagues conducted a randomized crossover study in which 43 healthy married couples received two different high-fat meals — one with saturated fat and one with sunflower oil. Both meals were otherwise similar. The sample included both happy and unhappy couples, both people with and without excess weight. After both meals (two separate days) the couple discussed a marital disagreement.

They found no metabolic differences between the two different meals. But for people with more hostility and a history of depression, they found significantly higher insulin levels and triglycerides after the meal. In those people, they also found significantly lower resting energy expenditure.

Even though this is a randomized crossover study, it’s worth remembering that what we have here is an association. The authors don’t really discuss the limitations of their study design, but neither do they describe this as a cause and effect relationship. It is, however, entirely consistent with prior research that shows depression, hostility, and anger may increase the risk of metabolic syndrome.

Maybe Mom was right: “Your anger will eat you up.”

Click here to read the study. Click here to read more about it from Ohio State University. And click here for a review of prior studies on this subject.

Arguing Penguins, photograph © Adam Arroyo / flickr

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