It comes as no surprise to anyone that breakups and hard days at work make junk food more appealing. Researchers established long ago that stress is a driving factor in overeating and weight gain. However a new University of Florida study came out that indicates the opposite could be true too; that having body fat affects your stress levels. Turns out the more fat you carry the more stressed everyday life makes you feel.
It’s not just the stress of feeling overweight either; the study says that fat sends stress signals to your brain that create a vicious cycle; being stressed makes you eat more and the more fat you gain the higher that stress climbs. Published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, this study becomes the first that proves that emotional eating isn’t just in your head because it establishes a loop of biofeedback between your cortisol levels and body fat.
James Herman Ph.D. co-authored the paper and says that prior to this study the common thinking was that stress regulation was only the brain’s responsibility but this suggests that it’s handled more systemically throughout the metabolism. It’s believed by Herman that this finding is a newly discovered pathway from fat-to-brain that communicates stress levels, helping to regulate metabolism. It’s a helpful process when it tells your brain to control your stress response but in the long term these messages bombarding your brain to slow your metabolism can be a self defeating cycle that adds even more worry to our chaotic lives.
Now the biggest question is to pin down what the nature of this signal to the brain is so that the cycle can be broken. It’s possible this study could provide means for better ways to deal with stress. It might seem like depressing news on the surface but this information does give us important clues for healthy living. Knowing that having less fat means less stress might motivate more people to work out, not to mention take steps to reduce overall stress.