Thursday, October 21, 2010

Stress-Induced Eating

Obesity is an escalating problem for many Americans. High sugar and fatty foods are quickly and easily accessible at any hour of the day or night. For many people eating has become a way of reducing stress. An article I came across looked at the possibility of a body and brain interaction as the cause for stress eating. When a person suffers from stress they seek out rich foods. Why is that?

Our bodies contain a hormone called cortisol which is produced in response to stress. People who suffer from chronic stress are producing high levels of cortisol which tells the body to go into survival mode in turn causing increased anxiety and ultimately depression. Left to its own devices, the long-term anxiety set off by chronic stress would use up all of the energy reserves in the body. But fatty and high sugar foods build up reserves which help the body survive.

The high levels of cortisol released in the body during chronic stress actually direct the excess calories you intake straight to your abdomen, where they get deposited as fat. Because of its location, abdominal fat has privileged access to the liver which allows it to be quickly mobilized for energy. These fat deposits serve an important purpose. They emit a metabolic signal that is then sent to the brain which tells it to shut off the stress response.

These findings hopefully can be correlated to the weight gain produced by anti-depressants as a side effect and further studied in order to develop a cure for chronic stress through the inhibition of the cortisol hormone thus preventing the accumulation of abdominal fat.

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