Elissa Epel, PhD

Photo of Elissa Epel, PhD
PhD, Yale University
Associate Professor
Department of Psychiatry
Director, COAST
Assistant Director, Center for Health and Community


Phone: (415) 476-7648
Fax: (415) 476-7744
E-mail: eepel@lppi.ucsf.edu

UCSF Profiles

UCSF Center for Obesity Assessment, Study and Treatment (COAST)
Osher Center for Integrative Medicine
Department of Psychiatry
Aging Metabolism Emotions Center

Research Interests:

My research bridges health psychology, health disparities, neuroendocrinology, and cell biology. I am interested in the process of adaptation to chronic and acute stress, how different profiles lead to vulnerability vs. resilience, and how to transform toxic stress to positive stress. How does chronic stress lead to maladaptive coping and patterns of reactivity and biological changes at the cellular level? What does a 'thriving' response to stress look like? How can interventions promote better emotion regulation and cognitive function? How is stress transmitted to the next generation, from experiences in the womb and early childhood? How is stress accumulated throughout the lifespan, and how does this impact rate of aging? A second line of research examines why some people eat less during stress whereas others eat more. In particular, I am interested in identifying how profiles of emotional reactivity to stress may alter the reward value of food, eating behavior, insulin sensitivity, and abdominal fat distribution. With my clinical and basic research colleagues, we have formed a new UCSF obesity center, COAST, which aims to determine the role of chronic stress in the current obesity epidemic.

Selected Professional Honors and Awards:

  • Stanford Firestone Medal
  • NARSAD Young Investigators Award
  • UCSF Hellman Family Award for Early Career Faculty
  • Neal Miller New Investigator Award (Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research)
  • American Psychological Association Outstanding Contribution to Health Psychology (Div. 38)
  • Curt Richter Award, International Society for Psychoneuroendocrinology
  • American Psychological Association Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology

Selected Publications (from over 100):

  1. Blackburn, E., & Epel, E. (2012). Telomeres and adversity: Too toxic to ignore. Nature, 490, 169-71
  2. Epel, ES, (2009). Psychological and metabolic stress: a recipe for accelerated cellular aging? Hormones, 8:7-22.
  3. Adam, T., & Epel, E. (2007) Stress, Eating, and the Reward System, Physiol Behav. 2007, 91, :449-58. (most cited article in Physiology & Behavior)
  4. Epel ES, Blackburn EH, Lin J, Dhabhar FS, Adler NE, Morrow JD, Cawthon RM. (2004). Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress. Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, 101(49),17312-17315.
  5. Epel E, McEwen B, Seeman T, Matthews K, Castellazzo G, Brownell K, Bell J, Ickovics J. (2000). Can stress shape your body? Consistently greater stress-induced cortisol secretion among women with abdominal fat. Psychosomatic Medicine, 62, 623-632.