How Does Stress Increase Body Fat?

Could your job be killing you? Learn more

Nobody wants to have a higher percentage of body fat, and nobody wants to be stressed. But, unfortunately, new studies have shown that these negative conditions are linked. As jobs continue to bring more challenges and make us work even harder, it’s possible that our health might be paying the price. This suggests that what our mothers have been saying for years is true — eating right, sleeping enough and spending some time on ourselves may be the key.

Unlocked fat cells

According to a 2007 study published in Nature Medicine, people who experienced chronic stress also had an easy time gaining a higher body fat percentage. This connection wasn’t due to emotional eating or too little time to prepare healthy meals. Instead, the study found that people who were under a great deal of stress were more likely to have larger and more fat cells due to the release of NPY, a neuropeptide that creates a so-called unlocking of fat cells, according to WebMD. Increased body fat can lead to heart disease, diabetes and other health problems, which makes this an issue of great concern to all those who suffer from stress.

Workplace stress

According to a 2010 study by the University of Rochester Medical Center, people who serve in jobs that encourage high stress levels and a sedentary lifestyle are likely to be overweight. The study also concluded that switching to a diet of fruits and vegetables did little to offset the unhealthy body weight. Instead, exercise was the element that spurred a return to healthy body weight. Unfortunately, working long hours leaves little time for exercise. In addition, the study concluded that stressed workers did not want to spend their evenings working out, but instead wanted to relax at home, another issue that can lead to increased body fat.

Unhealthy eating

Although overstressed workers might be suffering from unhealthy body fat levels because of biology, unhealthy eating is still a problem. Participants in the University of Rochester Medical Center study told researchers that more unhealthy snacks were purchased from company vending machines when layoffs occurred.

Proposed solution

According to the World Health Organization, the effects of stress and a sedentary lifestyle in the workplace could be greater than obesity and unhealthy body fat. Problems like anxiety, depression, exhaustion and heart disease can also be a result.

In order to solve these problems, some advocate the creation of wellness programs where employees have access to physical and mental health resources. However, encouraging stressed employees to take advantage of these programs still presents a problem for those with unhealthy body fat who feel like they need to relax more than they need to exercise.

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