The American Heart Association’s statistics show that 145 million Americans over age 20 are overweight or obese. . A person is considered overweight if your body mass index (BMI) measures greater than 25; Obesity is measured by a BMI over 30. Unhealthy food choices and lack of exercise are responsible for most weight problems, but cortisol also contributes to weight gain.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone related classified glucocorticoids family. It is produced by the adrenal glands and is associated with the body’s response to stress. Cortisol two main functions are determined by stress. When the “flight or fight” response is activated in the body of dangerous or stressful situations, cortisol works in collaboration with other hormones to break down fats and carbohydrates into extra energy. This reduces appetite and increases alertness, prepares the body for action. After the threat diminished, enacts cortisol its second function by increasing appetite to replace fats and carbohydrates that were burned under threat response. It does this even if the original fat and carbohydrate energy was not used, which is how cortisol affects weight.
According to Dr. Pamela Peek of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, cortisol was originally used by the body in times of extreme stress and danger, such as fleeing a potential abuser. The same amount of the hormone is released in situations where stress is not always accompanied by physical reaction. The fat and carbohydrate energy that is not used during a “fight or flight” response is deposited back to body fat storage. The same amount of fat is still available, but cortisol continues to increase appetite after threat or stress ends. This leads to eating and save even more fat and carbohydrates, resulting in weight gain.
Chronic stress also exposes the body to a constant level of cortisol, which even ordinary daily stress activates the body’s “fight or flight” status. According to Stanford University biologist Dr. Robert M. Sapolsky, these constant levels of cortisol not only increases hunger and appetite, they increase the production of glucose as well, which is then stored as fat, increases the body’s total weight.