Stress and Weight: New Research

For anyone who has ever struggled with weight issues, this is a well-known source of stress for many. Losing excess weight can be a real challenge for a lot of people and perceived body image pressures can add to that stress. Recent research has revealed that those who are overweight may suffer a double-whammy in terms of stress – the secretion of more of the stress hormone cortisol after eating.

A small study conducted by Deacon University in Australia found that those who were overweight or obese secreted significantly higher cortisol levels after eating that those of a normal weight. This was following consuming a meal of the same caloric intake across all study participants.

The study finds that while we carry excess fat stores, we may also expose ourselves to up to 51% higher levels of cortisol than normal weight people after a meal. It therefore follows that carrying excess weight puts you at higher risk of developing stress-related illnesses.

Higher levels of the hormone cortisol have been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and depression. Further studies have also found that cortisol encouraged the survival of prostate cancer cells despite the presence of anti-cancer drugs in mice. Type 2 Diabetes is another concern that is linked to higher exposure to cortisol.

One of the chief concerns is that if higher cortisol levels are secreted every time an overweight or obese person eats, they will be exposed to cortisol frequently and repeatedly. This does not bode well for long-term health effects such as the chronic diseases already mentioned.

Further study is required to discover exactly why overweight individuals secrete so much more cortisol and how cortisol is regulated by the body. There are theories that suggest perhaps fat cells are involved with regulating cortisol, but it is not known exactly how this mechanism works.

If there are solutions to this problem, it lies in maintaining a healthy weight and at least taking those measures which are known to help with weight loss. Exercise is known for its benefits not only to weight management, but to managing stress also. Most experts agree that we all need to aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day just to remain healthy, more is required if weight loss goals are included.

Diet is of course another vital aspect to both weight management and stress management. There are many superfoods such as citrus and avocado that are known to help manage stress, at the same time these are part of a healthy diet. Avoiding too many sugars, high glycemic index carbohydrates and processed foods will also do wonders for your body and your state of mind.

The message is simple: an unhealthy body can spiral into further chronic health problems including stress-related illness, whereas a healthy body will also help you to maintain a healthy mind!