Cortisol, stress and obesity

Researchers found a relationship between cortisol and abdominal fat. Cortisol has been blamed as the main culprit of the obesity problem, and cortisol-reducing pills are advertised as a miracle solution to the problem of overweight. Is cortisol actually associated with abdominal obesity? Does reducing cortisol levels reduce fat?

What is cortisol?

Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It belongs to the category of hormones called glucocorticoids and has the ability to increase the level of glucose in the blood. Cortisol is called the stress hormone because the human body produces it in response to physical, psychological or emotional stress. Stress can be a reaction to various situations: intense training, lack of sleep, an extremely low-calorie diet, a problem at work or in family life.

Increasing the cortisol level in response to stress is preparing the body to escape or to fight. Cortisol increases the flow of glucose, protein and fat from tissues into the bloodstream to increase energy levels and increase physical readiness to cope with a stressful situation or threat.

How do you check the level of cortisol? The most common method of testing cortisol levels is blood test – the level of cortisol in the blood. There is also the possibility to examine saliva or urine.

Is cortisol associated with abdominal obesity?

Researchers confirmed the relationship between cortisol and abdominal obesity. There is a correlation between high levels of cortisol and storage of adipose tissue, especially abdominal fat, which is also referred to as intra-abdominal fat. This type of fat is stored deeper in the abdominal cavity and around internal organs. Visceral fat increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

However, cortisol is not the cause of obesity. High levels of cortisol are just one of the factors contributing to the storage of fat in the abdominal cavity. The cause of obesity is excess calories caused by too much food and insufficient physical activity. Thus, taking a cortisol-suppressant pill will not remove belly fat. Studies that have shown a relationship between cortisol and adipose tissue have not shown that lowering cortisol levels will remove fat already accumulated in the body.

One of the best ways to keep cortisol levels in the normal range is to reduce stress and provide time for regeneration and renewal. There are effective and natural ways to reduce stress: learning to breathe, improving sleep quality, relaxation exercises, meditation.

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