You've probably heard of the famous cortisol, a hormone often associated with stress and weight gain. In fact, it is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands, which plays an essential role in the metabolism of fats and proteins. Cortisol is also involved in the regulation of blood glucose and the transformation of fat into energy. But the other side of the coin: secreted in excess, cortisol can have harmful consequences, such as weight gain. Let's take stock in this article.
The role of cortisol in chronic stress
Also called "stress hormone", cortisol plays an important role in many physiological aspects of the body: regulation of blood sugar, fight against inflammation, regulation of blood pressure, bone development, stress response, regulation of sleep and immune system, regulation of cardiovascular function… However, when produced in excess and chronically, cortisol can have a negative impact that affects our immune system and weight.
Among its various essential roles in the body, cortisol is supposed to respond to physical or psychological stress. However, in case of prolonged secretion during chronic stress, cortisol can lead to the exhaustion of the adrenocortical glands located above the kidneys. From there occur various metabolic and organic disorders, such as high blood pressure, allergies, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, eczema, depression and especially obesity.
Indeed, chronic stress pushes the body to begin a state of hyperinsulinemia, which causes the release of a new wave of cortisol. However, this excessive release leads to fat accumulation, especially in the abdominal area. It leads to chronic inflammation of the cells as well as a decrease in libido and muscle regeneration.
Focus on the role of cortisol in weight gain
You should know that the body does not differentiate between different stress situations. Thus, it will be able to produce cortisol not only in critical situations, but also in more mundane circumstances, such as stress at work, traffic jams in transport… However, these different situations lead to a frequent and abusive secretion of cortisol, damaging to the well-being and proper functioning of the body. And above all, they are responsible for weight gain.
Indeed, after a peak of stress, it is cortisol that triggers the hunger signal to fill the fat reserves depleted by physiological processes. This is why we often have cravings in case of stress. In addition, in times of stress, the body's cells are more resistant to insulin, the hormone that regulates the amount of sugar in the blood. Thus, excess cortisol is not only responsible for weight gain, but also for the onset of type 2 diabetes.
In summary, cortisol triggers a number of reactions that ultimately lead to increased fat, especially in the hips and abdomen.
- The stress hormone promotes the accumulation of fat by reducing the insulin resistance of cells. Moreover, it stimulates lipoprotein which allows the storage of fat.
- Cortisol is partly responsible for our feelings of hunger, sending signals to the brain at the slightest stress.
- It counteracts the action of leptin which promotes satiety and accelerates metabolism. This reaction is present especially in people suffering from obesity.
- Cortisol also sends a signal to fat cells, inviting them to permanently store fat.
- Cortisol also interferes with serotonin, the mood neurotransmitter hormone, which is involved in food drives.
- Finally, cortisol also inhibits the action of growth hormone, which promotes the maintenance of muscle mass. Clearly, it promotes muscle loss and fat mass gain.
Some tips to overcome stress
As you will have understood, the consequences of stress are not only psychological: chronic stress also predisposes those who suffer from it to different diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases… This is the reason why the best slimming advice is to take the necessary measures to overcome your excessive stress problems.
However, in other words, no "magic" solution exists: not everyone has the same relationship to stress, and a solution that works for some will not be effective for others. There are in fact different solutions that, when combined, at least make it possible to temper the consequences of excessive stress: regular physical activity, better time management, better quality sleep… So many ways that are worth trying!
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