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Social Stress & Belly Fat

More stress equals more belly fat equals higher risk for heart disease

I often get questioned about the effects of "stress" on a patient's condition. Every time I hear that I think about Dr. Wayne Dyer's comments regarding "stress": "Can you go to the store and buy a jar of stress?"

Puts it into a different perspective, albeit a metaphysical one.

However a new research study in the jounal Obesity suggests that social stress may indeed cause the body to route more fat in the abdomen (deep abdominal, or belly fat), which has long been associated with increased risk of heart disease.

The hope of this finding is that it may lead to new or alternative ways of successfully dealing with the rising rates of obesity.

While we know that the basic formula for weight loss is simple and unalterable-- expend more calories than you take in--what has been more recently discovered is that where fat is located is an important predictor in cardiovascular problems. It would appear that social stress, defined as a feeling of social subordination or inferiority, leads to the depositing of fat stores toward the abdomen.

Abdominal fat behaves differently than fat stored elsewhere in the body, and as such can produce far more harmful effects than body fat stored elsewhere.

So if you've got a big butt, but no gut...congratulations, you're gonna be fine...right?

While this study can not be totally applicable to humans as it dealt with monkeys, it offers proof that the psycho-emotional makeup of animals (of which we technically are) does effect our physiology.

The monkeys in this study were fed a "Western" diet, high in fat and cholesterol and housed in groups that had a natural 'pecking order' of dominance and subordinance. Some monkeys weren't included in group activities and even were targets of aggression. Those monkeys developed significantly more fat in the abdominal cavity than other monkeys.

Social subordination causes the release of stress hormones that promote fat accumulation in the abdomen, posit the researchers. This abdominal (visceral) fat promotes the build-up of plaque in blood vessels that leads to heart disease, the leading cause of death worldwide.

These findings obviously reinforce the wisdom of healthy eating, regular exercise and handling stress well. Not to mention having good coping mechanisms and social skills and integration.

Makes you wonder what happened to those who weren't allowed to play in any reindeer games?


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