Muf­fin tops roll on stress

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - NEWS - JACKIE SINNERTON

QUEENS­LAND su­per­women try­ing to ‘‘have it all’’ are so stressed their brains are re­leas­ing cor­ti­sol lev­els equiv­a­lent to a life-and-death si­t­u­a­tion.

Gold Coast neu­ro­science re­searcher Delia McCabe has re­vealed the shock­ing im­pact of sus­tained stress on women.

“When these cor­ti­sol lev­els are al­ways sky high, the brain au­to­mat­i­cally thinks it is in a dan­ger­ous po­si­tion,’’ she said.

This ex­treme stress is man­i­fest­ing it­self in fat stores around the waist­line. When the body be­lieves it is in con­stant dan­ger, it stores fat for en­ergy to es­cape.

“Cor­ti­sol is a fat-pro­mot­ing hor­mone be­cause it trig­gers spe­cific en­zymes to store fat, in case of an emer­gency,’’ the clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist said.

“The rea­son peo­ple ac­cu­mu­late tummy fat, or muf­fin top, is be­cause deep ab­dom­i­nal fat con­tains four times the amount of cor­ti­sol re­cep­tors than other fat sites. Cor­ti­sol is there­fore drawn to the tummy like a mag­net, lead­ing to weight gain in this area.’’

The re­searcher be­lieves we are see­ing the dark side of neu­ro­plas­tic­ity – where the brain be­comes so stressed over time it is un­able to find emo­tional equi­lib­rium, spark­ing anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion.

“The body is de­signed to cope with stress for no longer than 60 se­conds and it can­not tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween liv­ing through a very stress­ful ex- pe­ri­ence and wor­ry­ing about it hap­pen­ing,” Ms McCabe said.

Two-thirds of women ad­mit they feel on edge al­most ev­ery day, the lat­est Women’s Health Sur­vey 2018 shows.

“The weight dilemma is com­pounded when stressed­out women strug­gle to sleep,’’ she said. “This leads to an in­crease in an­other hor­mone called ghre­lin, which is the hunger hor­mone, as it tells your brain you need to eat.’’

Be­ing tired also causes peo­ple to grav­i­tate to­wards fas­tre­lease en­ergy foods, she said.

“So blood glu­cose ups and downs con­tinue and, in time , me­tab­o­lism is im­pacted, which leads to it be­com­ing harder and harder to lose weight,’’ she said. “Bad habits stick around like ex­cess weight.’’

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