Grantee: Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser

Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser

Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD

Behavioral Scientist
  • Ohio State University

Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, Ph.D., researches psychological influences on immune endocrine function and their implications for health. One segment of her current research focuses on the ways in which stress and depression alter metabolic responses to meals. An initial study showed that breast cancer survivors who had experienced more recent stressors burned fewer calories after a fast-food type meal and also had both lower fat oxidation and higher insulin compared to survivors with fewer stressors. Burning fewer calories leads to weight gain. Furthermore, people with lower fat oxidation are more likely to gain weight by storing fat than those with higher fat oxidation, and thus their risk for obesity is increased. Higher levels of insulin foster fat storage. These adverse changes would all promote obesity.

This study also showed that depression substantially augments triglyceride responses to high saturated fat meals in ways that promote heart disease. Depression has well-established effects on heart disease morbidity and mortality, and these meal-related changes highlighted a previously unrecognized depression-sensitive pathway.

During stressful times many people turn to calorie-dense high-fat "comfort" food. While the influence of stress and depression on food choice is well-established, these novel data suggest that stress and depression also affect metabolic responses to these meals. A longitudinal study in her lab is now addressing how these metabolic responses impact coronary artery calcification and weight change in breast cancer survivors.

NIH News in Health featured Dr. Kiecolt-Glaser's work in a February 2017 article titled "Do Social Ties Affect our Health?"

Stress impacts many aspects of our physiology. Close and supportive personal relationships can buffer the effects of stress and can be an important resource during difficult times in our lives.”