Stress re­ally can make a woman over­weight

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Ben Spencer Med­i­cal Cor­re­spon­dent

IF you’ve ever found your­self reach­ing for a choco­late bar or a tub of ice cream af­ter a hard day, then this may come as no great sur­prise.

For re­search has con­cluded what many of us al­ready sus­pected – that stress can make you more likely to put on weight.

Sci­en­tists be­lieve that not only does anx­i­ety prompt over-eat­ing as a cop­ing mech­a­nism, stress hor­mones also in­crease hunger and slow down the body’s me­tab­o­lism, caus­ing us to pile on the pounds.

The US team as­sessed the emo­tional and phys­i­cal health of 21,900 women and found a sig­nif­i­cant link be­tween obe­sity and trau­matic life events such as be­reave­ment, un­em­ploy­ment or fall­ing vic­tim to crime.

Women who had suf­fered one trau­matic event in the last five years were 11 per cent more likely to be obese. This rose to 36 per cent more likely for those who had suf­fered four or more neg­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ences. Lead re­searcher Pro­fes­sor Michelle Al­bert, of the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, San Fran­cisco, said: ‘We know that stress af­fects be­hav­iour, in­clud­ing whether peo­ple un­der or over-eat, as well as neuro-hor­monal ac­tiv­ity in part in­creas­ing cor­ti­sol pro­duc­tion, which is re­lated to weight gain.

‘Our find­ings sug­gest psy­cho­log­i­cal stress might rep­re­sent an im­por­tant risk fac­tor for weight changes and, there­fore, we should con­sider in­clud­ing as­sess­ment and treat­ment of psy­choso­cial stress in ap­proaches to weight man­age­ment.

‘This is im­por­tant be­cause women are liv­ing longer and are more at risk for chronic ill­nesses such as car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease. The po­ten­tial pub­lic health im­pact is large, as obe­sity is re­lated to in­creased risks of heart at­tack, stroke, di­a­betes and can­cer, and con­trib­utes to spi­ralling health­care costs.’

Her find­ings, pre­sented at the Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion con­fer­ence in Cal­i­for­nia, came af­ter a re­port found the UK has the big­gest obe­sity prob­lem in Western Europe.

Three in ten Bri­tons are now obese, and at­tempts to tackle the prob­lem have fo­cused on diet and ex­er­cise. But the re­search sug­gests men­tal health should also be taken into ac­count. It also bol­sters grow­ing ev­i­dence that mood has a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on health. A Univer­sity Col­lege London study last year found over-50s who are hap­pier had a 24 per cent re­duced risk of dy­ing in the next seven years.

Stress hor­mones adren­a­line and cor­ti­sol are thought to put a strain on the heart, raise blood pres­sure and slow me­tab­o­lism. Other stud­ies have found those who are stressed are more likely to lead an un­healthy life­style, in­clud­ing smok­ing and drink­ing, have higher choles­terol, are more prone to in­flam­ma­tion and have a worse im­mune re­sponse.

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