Dr. Campbell: Chronic stress linked to obesity

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Doctors have long recognized a link between stress and obesity. Now there is new evidence that those who suffer long-term chronic stress are more prone to having a larger waistline.

  1. How is stress linked to obesity?

When we are stressed or unhappy we are more likely to make unhealthy choices. People tend to report overeating and consuming “comfort foods” high in fat, sugar, and calories when they are feeling stressed.  In addition, when we are stressed we release certain hormones that can promote fat storage in our bodies.   One hormone—called cortisol—can be measured in hair samples as well as in blood tests.

  1. Tell us about this new study?

Researchers from London followed more than 2,500 men and women aged 54 and older over a period of four years. They tested hair from each subject for cortisol levels (a stress hormone) and were able to determine stress levels over a period of time—previous studies used blood samples which were not as accurate.

The researchers also collected data on participants’ weight, body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference.

What they found was impressive. People who had higher levels of stress hormone present in their hair sample tended to have a larger waist circumference, were heavier, and had a higher BMI, indicating more body fat as opposed to muscle.

In other studies larger waist measurements have been associated with diabetes, heart disease and even premature death.

In short, the more stressed you were over time, the more overweight you were likely to be.

  1. What can we do to better manage stress?

Stress management is an ongoing battle for most of us. The key is to find some activity that allows you to turn your focus away from your stressors.

Here are a few tips to help you along:

  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Daily exercise
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Breathe
  • Daily 5 minute meditation

To get in touch with Dr. Campbell, you can head to his website, Facebook page or message him on Twitter.

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