Obesity may be linked to increased cortisol levels after eating
According to an observational study on obesity, it appears that overweight and obese men secrete large amounts of stress hormones after eating, which might make them more susceptible to this metabolic disorder. Obesity and overweight are global health issues as in 2008 WHO estimated that there are over 500 millions obese people and the incidence is increasing. Obesity is often correlated with metabolic syndrome which includes (besides obesity, quantified by waist circumference), diabetes, elevated triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol and hypertension. These all together greatly increase cardiovascular risk, that is the risk of angina, heart attack, stroke or other complications (lower limb peripheral arterial disease).
Because obesity is a serious public health problem, researchers have thought of ways to reduce this phenomenon. One way to do this is to identify hormonal differences between the obese and lean people in certain situations such as after eating. Previous studies have highlighted the fact that in stressful situations cortisol is secreted in greater amounts in obese people than lean people. Cortisol is a steroid hormone secreted by the adrenal gland in stressful situations, along with adrenaline and noradrenaline. This hormone is absolutely necessary in humans in order to be able to deal with stressful situations but excess levels of this hormone may lead to numerous metabolic disorders. It was found that this hormone is also secreted after eating and researchers wanted to see if indeed cortisol levels are increased in obese humans after they eat.
What scientists found was that obese and overweight people have a higher level of cortisol in saliva than lean people after they have meal. Salivary cortisol is increased by 51% in obese compared to 5% in lean people. Study lead author Anne Turner, Ph.D., senior lecturer at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, said that this research shows that if you have excess fat deposits this exposes you to increased amounts of stress hormones every time you eat. She added that this disorder makes obese or overweight people to have an increased risk of developing related stress-diseases.
In their study, researchers measured salivary cortisol levels every 15 to 30 minutes before eating (meal included margarine, cheese, bread, meat, tomatoes, ) and for 90 minutes after eating. Turner said: “Greater exposure of the body to cortisol may in turn, increase our risk of developing stress-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, depression and anxiety”. She said that this is one of the reasons why we should keep fit.