How does Cortisol cause Weight Gain?

Adrenal glands in our body produces cortisol as part of daily hormonal cycle. Cortisol is an important hormone that helps body respond to both emotional and physical stress. Cortisol helps us handle stressful situations. Increase in stress causes increase in cortisol. Cortisol raises blood sugar levels, increases blood pressure and curbs immune system. This is part of body’s fight-or-flight response to survive in a desperate situation. When a very stressful or desperate situation happens, adrenal glands release both adrenaline and cortisol. Cortisol enhances glucose production to quickly boost the body’s energy during stressful times.

Cortisol and Weight

Cortisol has effects on body fat. When stress happens, fat break down happens to rapidly supply energy to the body. As the body prepares to deal with stressful situation, thinking improves, the pupils dilate and the lungs take in more oxygen. Our digestive system stops working and appetite gets suppressed temporarily. Cortisol plays a role in mobilizing fat and carbohydrate for quick energy. When the immediate stress is gone, cortisol still stays active to bring the body back to normal. In order to bring the body back to normal, cortisol does number of things. One of the things that cortisol does is to enhance our appetite so that body can refill the fat and carbohydrate we could have burnt in fighting or fleeing.

In modern life, dealing with stressful situations is in many cases not physically demanding or challenging. The body in such cases does not need to utilize the extra energy or fat and carbohydrate mobilized by cortisol. However, the body assumes that the fat and carbohydrates mobilized by cortisol have been exhausted in dealing with stress. In bringing, the body back to normal state after the immediate stress is over, cortisol enhances out appetite. This enhancement of appetite is supposed to restock the fat and carbohydrates that the body assumes it has exhausted. The extra energy or glucose produced by cortisol gets stored as fat eventually as it remains unutilized. Unnecessary and increased consumption of carbohydrates and fatty food to refuel the body can also get stored as fat. Cleary cortisol is contributing to increases in fat.

According to experts, we are now living in sustained state of stress. When stress and cortisol levels are high, insulin level will also be high. Sustained stress causes sustained state of excess cortisol, which causes excess glucose production. The extra glucose usually gets converted into fat. According to experts, constant stress and overload of cortisol make people feel tired and listless. People can then overeat to energize themselves and feel comfortable. This overconsumption of food can end up in extra inches around the middle. Sustained state of excess cortisol can obviously to lead to weight gain.   

Cortisol and Belly Fat

It is generally accepted that waistline usually gains the stress and cortisol-induced weight. It is because fat cells around the waistline are more sensitive to cortisol. The fat cells in the abdomen area are better stress hormone receptors and are also sensitive to insulin. These fat cells are also more effective in storing energy than fat cells in other parts of the body. According experts and studies, cortisol can cause weight gain in the centre of the body. Weight gain around the waistline is dangerous as it can cause heart disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes.  

Cortisol may not be the Only Cause

Some researchers doubt cortisol’s connection to obesity. According to those experts, cortisol level may not be the sole factor in fat distribution and obesity. According to them, question may arise whether rise in cortisol level causes weight gain or cortisol’s increase is impact of the weight itself. Relevant research suggests that cortisol alone may not be the main causes in weight gain. Due to numerous causes or factors that are linked with weight and appetite, there is no easy answer to treating obesity.

There are experts that study the complicated relationship between weight gain, cortisol and stress. Many of the experts agree that there is no simple or one to one relationship between weight gain and cortisol. It is because there so many different types of hormones and peptides involved, as pointed out by Marci Gluck from New York Obesity Research Centre.

Sometimes there are inconsistent research findings regarding relationship between weight gain and cortisol. It is hard to conclusively determine relationship between cortisol and weight gain. Link between the two remains subject to ongoing research.

Reducing Stress and Cortisol Level

Regardless of the nature and extent of relationship between stress, cortisol and weight gain, it is definitely a good idea to try to reduce stress and cortisol level. Exercise is one of the ways to beat stress and enhance insulin sensitivity. Exercise cannot only help burn calories and but also helps neutralize stress and its effects. This can also help prevent weight gain.

Stress reduction technique such as trying to connect to entity in other dimension or God can also be useful. Better time management can significantly reduce factors that cause stress. Adequate sleep can also reduce physiological responses of the body to daily stressors. How we perceive and deal with stressful situation also makes a big difference.

Last update: August 02, 2017 04:11:38 pm

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