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Health Team

Hormone caused by stress could lead to weight gain, study says

Posted June 22

— Everyone knows how stress can affect their mood and often their food choices, but can long-term stress actually make people gain weight?

Recent research from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging shows it's possible that constant stress can add to your waist line. The gain is due to a potential link between people's bodies and the stress hormone cortisol.

"People who had higher BMIs had higher levels of cortisol, and people who had higher waist circumference, kind of carrying their weight in the middle, also had that higher level of cortisol," said the Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Leslie Heinberg.

Researchers compared the stress levels and body weight of more than 2,500 men and women over the age of 54.

They examined locks of hair for cortisol over a 2-month period.

Cortisol is the hormone secreted by the adrenal glands, and it tends to ramp up during times of stress.

Cortisol levels can vary greatly throughout the course of a day, but excessive levels over time can wreak havoc on the body.

It may get in the way of healthy habits, such as getting a good night's rest, exercise and eating a healthy diet.

Heinberg says it's a reminder not to put our health on the back burner when we're stressed out.

"Things like exercise, meditation, mindfulness exercises, relaxation," also help reduce stress - as well as controlling your weight, Heinberg said.

Heinberg says the research is not conclusive about whether the stress of study participants was a result of being overweight or if being overweight was a result of stress. She believes it may be a combination of the two.

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