Obesity is considered to be an epidemic in the contemporary world. Some people think that the term is a little too extreme. However, the rate at which the problem of obesity is spreading in the United States qualifies the use of the word ‘epidemic’.
And in an attempt to find more effective means of combating this epidemic, pharmaceutical companies and medical experts have been working tirelessly to identify those concrete factors that could justifiably be blamed for the manifestation of obesity in some people.
The issue of genetics is often mentioned in these discussions; though, it has become the norm to blame the obesity epidemic on lifestyle factors, chief amongst which are junk food, lack of physical activity and stress.
In fact, medical experts have been blaming obesity on stress for a long period of time. And now it looks like they have found some concrete data to back their claims.
Stress and Obesity
Does stress really cause obesity? Well, there is a good reason to embrace this notion. According to psychologists, when people are stressed, they tend to eat more in order to find comfort. And they often opt for foods rich in sugar and fat, which in turn is fueling obesity.
According to Doctor Sarah Jackson (University College London, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health), the obesity issue might revolve entirely around cortisol, a hormone that is produced as a result of stress.
Jackson wanted to prove that people whose cortisol levels were persistently high tended to weigh more. She did this by looking at the hair samples of over two thousand adults participating in the English Longitudinal Study of Aging.
While most researchers normally measure cortisol using samples of urine, saliva or blood, Jackson chose to disregard those sources because they have a tendency to vary as a result of time and other factors.
Jackson believes that hair provides a more accurate measurement of cortisol concentration in the body, which is why she took that route. The subjects used in the study, which was published in a journal called “Obesity”, were over the age of 54 years. Along with collecting their hair samples, their BMI, waist circumference and weight were measured at varying periods over the course of four years.
Jackson's analysis revealed that adults with larger BMIs, waist circumferences and weight had greater levels of cortisol. In comparison, subjects with lower cortisol levels registered lower figures in the same areas.
According to Jackson, this didn't prove that stress was a definite cause of obesity. If that was the case, then a considerable portion of the world would be struggling with obesity. Rather, chronic stress is the problem here. There is a noteworthy connection between obesity and the body’s prolonged exposure to high levels of cortisol that come as a result of chronic stress.