Can Stress cause Fat Deposition around the Belly?

Updated at: Jan 29, 2018
Can Stress cause Fat Deposition around the Belly?

There have been several debates on how stress influences a person's weight and decides where the fat would actually deposit. Discover the reality behind this debate.

Bhadra Kamalasanan
Weight ManagementWritten by: Bhadra KamalasananPublished at: Jan 29, 2018

There are various hazards associated with a sedentary lifestyle and stress is definitely one of them. However, it is a lesser known fact that stress can cause fat deposition around the belly.

To maintain healthy eating habits - when one is overburdened with stress, can be difficult. A critical hormone for the body’s functioning is cortisol which is also the stress hormone. Cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands in a certain pattern, also called diurnal variation. By virtue of this pattern, the level of cortisol in the bloodstream can vary depending on the time of the day. Cortisol is said to be the highest in the morning and the lowest at midnight. It is an important hormone for the maintenance of blood pressure and for providing energy to the different systems of the body for their optimum functioning.

Why “stress” hormone?

A reason why cortisol is referred to as the stress hormone is that during physical or psychological stress, the normal pattern of secretion of cortisol can be altered. This disruption may not only promote weight gain but affect that part of the body that will get affected by weight gain. Certain studies have shown that stress and elevated levels of cortisol can lead to deposition of fat in the abdominal area instead of the hips. This type of deposition of fat is also referred to as toxic fat considering that abdominal fat is strongly related to the development of cardiovascular diseases like a heart attack and stroke.

Is stress the only reason for weight gain?

Stress is not obviously the only reason why a person may put on weight. In fact, there are several diseases as well as conditions that may be responsible for an abnormal level of cortisol in the body. A condition in which several medical problems lead to high levels of cortisol is referred to by experts as Cushing’s syndrome.

Weight loss or gain depends on a variety of factors like:

  • Resting metabolic rate
  • Amount of exercise
  • Food intake
  • Types of foods consumed at a certain time of the day
  • Genetics

Can weight gain be predicted?

Whether a person is going to gain weight or whether his/her levels of stress is going to cause high levels of cortisol cannot be predicted. The amount of cortisol that is secreted by a person in response to stress depends and varies from one person to another. Some people are innately reactive to stressful events while others are more relaxed.

Cortisol levels can be controlled and managed by making changes in lifestyle and getting checked up every 6 months to ensure that levels of the stress hormone do not change majorly so as to affect the functioning of the body.

Image: Getty


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