Long-term stress might make you fat

Recently, CNN reported that English researchers compared stress levels and body weight of more than 2,500 men and women over age 54 who participated in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.

The study, published in the journal Obesity, looked at the levels of a stress hormone called cortisol in locks of hair gathered from participants.

“We found levels of cortisol in the hair to be positively and significantly correlated to larger waist circumference and higher body mass index or BMI,” said lead author Sarah Jackson, a research associate at the Institute of Epidemiology and Health at University College London. “These results provide consistent evidence that chronic stress is associated with higher levels of obesity.”

Cortisol is a hormone produced in the adrenal glands that is released into the bloodstream in times of stress. In addition to suppressing inflammation and regulating blood pressure, cortisol helps maintain steady supplies of blood sugar and gives an energy boost to handle emergencies.

“There’s a lot of evidence that cortisol influences appetite and even our preference for high-calorie comfort foods,” Jackson said. “So I know that’s tough. But it’s best to look for better ways to manage stress and avoid using food as a crutch.”

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