Stress contributes to Obesity

Until now, faulty diet and lack of exercise have been blamed for obesity. However, not all cases of obesity can be explained on the basis of these two factors. Now, scientists from the University of Stavanger have published an article in Medical Hypotheses which shows that obesity and stress are interlinked and interfere by positive feedback. 

Obesity is a worldwide problem which can give rise to a number of diseases like type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension and cancer, apart from many other chronic diseases. It is important to understand about the factors that lead to obesity, in order to counter it effectively. The World Health Organization has enlisted diet rich in fat, salt and sugar along with decreased physical activity as important causes of obesity. However, according to Dr. Brynjar Foss, a human biologist has pointed out that stress could also be one of the factors behind obesity. He, along with his colleague, Dr. Sindre M Dyrstad, a sports scientist, reviewed a number of studies and found that the levels of cortisol (stress hormone) are significantly raised in obese individuals.

Drs. Foss and Dyrstad have opined that increased levels of cortisol can lead to weight gain. However, an increase in weight can trigger the stress response, which in turn leads to an increase in the production of the stress hormone, cortisol. So you end up gaining even more weight. Thus, we see that it is a vicious cycle wherein stress and obesity reinforce each other through a mechanism of positive feedback.

However, in case this hypothesis is true, then another interesting view point emerges from it. According to it, dieting also puts the body under stress. This, in turn, can lead to cortisol production, which again will lead to weight gain. This means that dieting can lead to a gain in weight when an entirely opposite effect is expected from it. Therefore, one concludes that it is important to break the stress-obesity cycle in order to lose weight.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012