Discipline: Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences
Subcategory: Physiology and Health
Nika McClean - Virginia State University
Co-Author(s): Charles Carter and Aijai Hopkins
The present study examined the ability of eating behaviors to predict cardiovascular reactivity to stress. It was hypothesized that participants with unhealthy eating behaviors would have greater cardiovascular reactivity to stress. Ninety eight African American college students (21 men, 77 women) between the ages of 18 – 43 participated in the study. A Hypertension Diagnostic cardiovascular profiling instrument was used to measure heart rate, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, mean arterial pressure, stroke volume, and cardiac output. The Your Eating Style Profile questionnaire was used to measure eating behaviors (Scherwitz & Kesten, 2005). Six eating behaviors were measured in the current study. They are Emotional Eating, which exists in individuals who eat during times of high emotions. Food Fretting which exist in individuals who fret about their food spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about their diet and food choices. The Task Snacking eating behavior exists in individuals who tend to eat while performing daily tasks. Individuals who take the time to savor their food while eating have the Sensory, Spiritual Nourishment eating behavior. The Eating Atmosphere eating behavior assesses preference for eating in an aesthetically pleasing and peaceful environment. The only eating behavior that focuses on the type of food consumed, the Fast Food vs. Fresh Food eating behavior, requires people to make a decision between unhealthy fast food choices and healthy fresh whole foods. A Multiple Regression analysis revealed that Food Fretting, Emotional Eating, and Sensory, Spiritual Nourishment were negatively associated with cardiovascular reactivity to stress. In addition, Eating Atmosphere and Task Snacking were positively associated with blood pressure responses to stress. The former finding showed that as hypothesized participants with healthier eating behaviors (low levels of; food fretting, emotional eating, and sensory, spiritual nourishment) were less emotionally aroused by the emotional arousing stimulus. Specifically, participants with healthier eating behaviors were less emotionally aroused by the emotional arousing stimulus. It appears that these healthy eating behaviors buffered against the negative effects of stress. Unexpectedly, the latter finding revealed that participants who eat in a tense and hectic eating environment and those who snack while performing daily tasks had lower blood pressure responses to the emotional arousing stimulus. These findings may be attributed to the habituation of stress. Since these participants experience stressful and hectic environments more often than their counterparts, they may habituate to other types of stress more readily hence their blood pressure responses to a racial emotional arousing stimulus may not increase compared to those who do not prefer a stressful eating environment.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): Virginia State University HBCU-UP program provided support for this project.
Faculty Advisor: Vernessa R. Clark, VrClark@vsu.edu
Role: I participated in data collection, data analysis, and the writing of the abstract.