Stress really can make a woman overweight
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.