People who suffer long-term stress may also be more prone to obesity, according to research by scientists at University College London. The paper, published in the journal ‘Obesity’, shows that exposure to higher levels of cortisol over several months is associated with people being more heavily, and more persistently, overweight. In the research, the scientists took a 2cm-long lock of hair from the participants which was associated accumulated levels of cortisol. They also examined the participants’ weight, body mass index and waist circumference and how hair cortisol related to the persistence of obesity over time. They found that people who had higher levels of cortisol present in their hair tended to have larger waist circumference measurements, were heavier, and had a higher body mass index.
Further research might help healthcare professionals target cortisol levels by stress alleviation as a new method for treating obesity.