While I know no one reading this ever has done this themselves, many of us know of people who, under pressure, resort to “stress eating.”
Chocolate, French fries, and potato chips are some of the usual suspects implicated in stress overeating while foods like broccoli or blueberries are probably rarely much abused.
The result – chronic stress can lead to habitual stress eating of unhealthy foods, which in turn leads to weight gain and possibly to obesity, diabetes, and a host of other health problems.
We’ve all seen this happen, but up until recently, the biomedical research field has been unable to provide the corroborating scientific evidence.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recently published a paper out of the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel documenting the effects caused by changes to the gene Urocortin-3 (Ucn3).
Ucn3 is produced in certain brain cells during times of stress and is known to play a role in regulating the body’s stress response. Dr. Alon Chen led a team of Weizmann researchers who were able to increase amounts of Ucn3 in certain areas of the brains of mice.
The results of these Ucn3 increases were two-fold: anxiety-related behavior increased while at the same time, their metabolism changed. Specifically, the mice burned more sugars and less fatty acids and their metabolic rates increased.
An increase in metabolism is usually considered a good thing for weight loss, but not in this case. This change in metabolism didn’t necessarily change the amount of food that the mice were ingesting, just their food preferences. Rather than eating a healthy balanced diet, the stress-induced metabolic changes caused them to choose sugary food.
Sugars are good if needing quick bursts of energy in order to escape a physical danger, but become a health issue if abused over the long term.
These mice (back to the Weizmann study) started to show the first stage signs of type 2 diabetes with decreased sensitivity to insulin, increased sugar levels in the blood, and more insulin being produced by their pancreas. The findings link stress to metabolic syndromes, especially diabetes and obesity.
It is predictable that scientists will be looking to develop a pill to counteract Ucn3. But, wouldn’t it be far easier to counteract stress? It seems like such a simple answer. Hypnosis is tailor made for this, of course. It may even be a big reason hypnosis works so well for weight loss.
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