Women who suffer from stress at home or at work, have slower metabolism and can gain weight more easily than their non-stressed peers.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Ohio State University, shows that stress is an important risk factor for weight gain.

The research also explains why previous studies on the subject found a link between depression and weight gain. Researchers said that stress doesn't just make people crave for high-calorie, fatty food, but also slows down metabolism and even lead to higher levels of insulin in the body. The double whammy of stress can cause accumulation of fat in the body.

According to the researchers, stressed women in the study burned 104 fewer calories than non-stressed women, in seven hours after eating the high-fat meal. Researchers said that the slower metabolism could lead to a weight gain of almost 11 pounds in one year.

"This means that, over time, stressors could lead to weight gain," said Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology at The Ohio State University and lead author of the study, according to a news release.

The small study was conducted on a set of 58 women, average age of whom was 53 years. Participants were provided three meals on the previous day of the study to ensure food-intake was standard for all. The women were instructed to fast for 12 hours before undertaking the study.

On the day of the study, participants were given a questionnaire about depressive symptoms and physical activity levels. They were even asked whether or not they had encountered stressors the previous day. Most women reported that they had fight with a co-worker or a partner.

Participants were then given a meal that consisted of eggs, turkey sausage, biscuits and gravy. The meal had 930 calories and 60 grams of fat.

"This is not an extraordinary meal compared to what many of us would grab when we're in a hurry and out getting some food," said Kiecolt-Glaser.

In the study, people in the control group were given the same meal. However, researchers had swapped saturated fats in the meal with monosaturated fat, which is considered to be a healthier option.

The team believed that participants who got meals with healthy fat would put on less weight than others. However, researchers found that both meals resulted in slow metabolism.

The study is published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

Researchers aren't sure whether the study findings can be applied to men as they have different metabolic rates than women due to higher muscle levels.

"We know we can't always avoid stressors in our life, but one thing we can do to prepare for that is to have healthy food choices in our refrigerators and cabinets so that when those stressors come up, we can reach for something healthy rather than going to a very convenient but high-fat choice," said Martha Belury, professor of human nutrition at Ohio State and a co-author of the study.

Related studies have shown that stress can cause short-term memory loss in older and adults and even shorten lifespan.