Long-term stress linked to higher risk of obesity
Research from University College London has concluded that people who suffer from long-term stress may be more prone to obesity. Researchers in this study analysed hair samples of 2,527 individuals aged 54 and older. They measured the levels of cortisol, known as the stress hormone, in these samples taking data over a four year period, they also measured BMI and waist circumference. They were then able to match the levels of cortisol to the persistence of obesity over time (as 2cm of hair represents approximately 2 months of growth).
They found that individuals with particularly higher levels of cortisol in their hair tended to have higher waist circumferences and BMIs. Chronic stress has been linked to obesity before, with people reporting overeating and ‘comfort eating’ high sugar and fat foods in times of stress, however this study has helped provide consistent evidence of this link. The study did have some limitations however, the data was from an exclusively older population, where levels of cortisol will be different to their younger counterparts, and causality cannot be interpreted from the results, only that there is a correlation. The researchers are therefore hoping to continue their research to further understanding in this area.