The New Equation: Stress = Excessive Eating = Obesity

Stress can impact your eating habits and lead to obesity, the national epidemic affecting millions of Americans. Doctors have now unraveled the relationship between stress and obesity. With chronic stress, the hypothalamus, located in the brain and where stress starts, sends a signal to the pituitary gland to release ACTH or adrenocorticotrophic hormone, which travels via the blood stream to the adrenal gland and stimulates the release of cortisol. Chronic stress leads to far more cortisol than is necessary which in turn stimulates the appetite as the cortisol secretion is turned on and off with excess stress resulting in excess ACTH to fuel the reaction. Cortisol has now been shown to activate lipoprotein lipase, the enzyme that facilitates the deposition of fat. Finally chronic stress is associated with increase anxiety, apathy, and depression, which by themselves may lead to excessive eating and obesity.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that exercise can help relieve chronic stress, reduce your appetite, and promote weight loss. Physical activity can protect against feelings of distress, defend against symptoms of anxiety, guard against depressive symptoms and the development of major depressive disorder and enhance psychological well-being.

Studies have documented that 30 minutes of exercise a day appear to have stress-reducing benefits. The type of exercise does not seem to make a difference. However, the intensity of the exercise does have an impact on stress reduction. The research shows that moderate to vigorous physical activity reduces stress better than low-intensity activity.

Bottom Line: Stress can be a killer just like heart disease. Want to make yourself heart healthy? Then reduce your stress by exercising. Your heart and so many other organ systems in your body will thank you.

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