Molecular Mechanism of Stress-Induced Weight Gain Discovered
By TLB Contributing Health Writer: Jane
Stress promotes weight gain. People have known this for a very long time, but only now did researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine find out exactly how this happens. The understanding of the molecular reactions that make chronic stress contribute to weight gain can help develop more effective treatment and prevention strategies for obesity, one of the biggest health concerns for the US nation today.
How Does Chronic Stress Cause Weight Gain?
According to the Stanford Medicine study, the connection between stress and weight gain lies in the hormones. In particular, glucocorticoids, the most well-known of which is the so-called ‘stress hormone’ cortisol.
Normally, these hormones are released in a 24-hour cycle. Their production peaks at 8 a.m. and steadily drops until it reaches its minimum around 3 a.m. The next peak is the call for the body to wake up fully and face the trials of the day. This call also triggers the feeling of hunger.
It’s because of the latter that the change in the glucocorticoids release cycle is directly linked to weight gain. The problem here is that chronic stress puts this entire group of hormones out of their natural cycle. As a result, the feelings of hunger and satiation simply do not work as they should.
The results of this study indicate that a stress-relief therapy is as important to weight loss as diet and exercise. One can also consider the efficiency of enhancing a weight loss program with appetite control supplements. As the feeling of hunger caused by a hormonal imbalance is one of the major causes of this weight gain, these products might be most effective due to their ability to control the feeling through other mechanisms.
Stress management Strategies for Boosting Weight Loss
One of the biggest problems about the direct connection between stress and weight gain is that this issue is nearly impossible to resolve. Appetite suppressants can help deal with the ‘symptoms’ to some extent and stress relief practices, like yoga and meditation will help as well. However, neither resolves the issue completely because stress is a chronic condition for many people.
There is no way to eliminate it completely, so the best thing one can do now is developing a personalized stress management routine that should become a part of their weight loss program. Some tricks that will help are:
Completely giving up on junk food and unhealthy fats.
Regular hunger pangs will make one eat more frequently. Ignoring this call from the body can result in digestive issues, dizziness, fainting, and other problems. So, if one has to eat, the solution is to eat the least weight gain-inducing foods. Replacing junk food and products rich in saturated fats with healthier alternatives is one of the best practices.
Cut down on the portion sizes.
Not eating in response to the feeling of hunger isn’t an option. However, if these ‘calls’ are frequent, one can manage them more easily by eating small portions. It’s very important to understand that the craving occurs not because the body is genuinely hungry. Instead it’s triggered by a biochemical reaction in response to stress. Therefore, one shouldn’t overeat as consuming a lot of food won’t help the matter any. It’s best to eat several small meals a day instead, so the brain’s release of the ‘satiation’ chemicals helps negate the cortisol-induced hunger.
Practice mindfulness meditation and breathing exercises.
Numerous studies have proven the efficiency of mindfulness meditation for the treatment of many problems. One of its greatest effects is the reduction of cortisol levels. Breathing exercises have shown similar results. These practices are a vital part of any stress management strategy and current understanding of the subject highlights how much of an effect they can have on weight loss as well.
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