Chronic Stress and Belly Fat
Those dealing with chronic stress not only are twice as likely to pack on the pounds but are also less likely to lose the added weight no matter how much they try due to elevated levels of cortisol in their bodies.
“When people are facing a stressful situation, a chain reaction is set off in the body that results in the release of cortisol, leading to higher levels of this hormone in the body,” according to Sarah Jackson, a researcher at University College London “Cortisol is involved in a broad range of biological processes, including metabolism, body composition and the accumulation of body fat.
When we’re stressed we may also find it more difficult to find the motivation to go for a run or resist unhealthy foods,” she stated in a recent interview with Reuters regarding middle-aged men and women (54 and up) taking part in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.
As part of the program, Jackson and her team examined the cortisol levels in the 2 centimeters of hair closest to the scalp of each participant and looked at their weight, waist circumference and body mass index every 2 years. In the end, they discovered that individuals with high amounts of cortisol in their hair were more likely have more belly fat than their counterparts with lower levels of the hormone.
Still, scientists not involved with the experiment stated that the results should be “taken with a grain of salt,” after noting that the study wasn’t a “controlled experiment to determine how stress directly impacts cortisol levels and weight gain,’ although it did give some “weight” (excuse the pun) to the belief that stress and obesity are linked.
Cortisol, which is secreted by the adrenal glands, has been termed the “stress hormone” because more of it is produced during times of physical or emotional pressure. Although the highest levels are usually found in the morning and are lowest at night, this can be altered.
However, no one knows for sure why the elevated levels cause fat to be deposited in the abdomen rather than other areas such as the hips and buttocks.
Known as “toxic fat, this excess deposit is, in turn, more closely related to the development of cardiovascular disease leading to heart attacks and strokes. Over production of cortisol is also responsible for causing Cushing’s syndrome and can throw off other systems in the body as well.
Note: Cushing’s can also be brought on by tumors in the pituitary gland, as well as by prolonged use of prescription steroids used for conditions such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or after an organ transplant.
Still, it is important to recognize that the amount of cortisol secreted in response to stress varies from person to person. In addition, studies have shown that women are more prone to eat more when under duress than men. And while women often crave chocolate to calm their nerves, rather than reach for candy, people under a lot of tension can try opting for foods such as whole wheat pretzels and/or crackers; nuts; fruits loaded with potassium (which can help keep blood pressure down) such as banana, apples and avocados; as well as crunchy carrots and celery.
Meanwhile, the magnesium found in leafy green vegetables such as swiss chard works to balance cortical. In addition, omega-3 rich fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines help control levels of adrenaline levels to people “calm, cool and collected.” A nice cup of tea, particularly chamomile and Sleepytime can also do wonders to soothe the nerves. However, most health experts state that the very best way to relieve stress and keep weight down is to be physically active and get plenty of exercises.