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Chill Out to Slim Down

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Chronic Stress Can Inhibit Weight Loss 

Summer is here—time to kick back and relax! If you’re looking for a reason to spend a little extra time lounging in the hammock or out by the pool, we have good news: A study published in BBA Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids finds stress relief may be good for your waistline. 

Researchers from the University of Florida looked at how chronic stress effects production of betatrophin, a protein that inhibits an enzyme that breaks down fat. Lab work showed that when cells are stressed out, expression of betatrophin dramatically increases—as much as 12.5 fold in this study. Essentially, the cells responded to stress by producing a substance that causes the body to retain fat. All this could mean that when you’re chronically stressed, it’s very easy to pack on the pounds. 

Back when food was scarce and resources low, this was pretty strategic programming for our bodies; it’s the equivalent of stock-piling food in your home when a big storm threatens your town. But in modern society, where chronic stress is more likely due to work or money than scarcity of calories, this logical fail-safe becomes a threat to health. 

Understanding that the body may be hard-wired to hold on to fat during stress, it’s even more important to reach for nutritious foods when the pressure is on. Better yet, incorporate stress-reducing activities into your regular routine: yoga, meditation, reading, walking through nature, playing with your dog, sipping a cup of tea, or whatever else works for you. Take a deep breath, smile, and start planning your summer vacation! 

BONUS: Round up some friends and take a walk! A study from England found group nature walks were significantly associated with lower depression and perceived stress, and more positive mental well-being.

Published June 1, 2016

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