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Page 6 | Abby's Magazine - Days filled with stress and anxiety may be upping your risk of becoming overweight or obese, Bri sh researchers say. The researchers said they found a link between high levels of the stress hormone cor sol and excess weight. "We don't know which came first, the greater body weight or the higher cor sol," said researcher Andrew Steptoe. He's the Bri sh Heart Founda on professor of psychology at University College London. For the study, Steptoe's team analyzed levels of cor sol in a lock of hair about three-quarters of an inch long, cut as close as possible to the scalp. This hair sample reflected accumulated cor sol levels over the previous two months, the researchers said. Cor sol is the body's primary stress hormone, triggered when you have a "flight-or-fight" response to danger. It benefits you to escape danger, but if cor sol levels stay chronically high, it is linked to depression, weight gain, anxiety and other problems, according the Mayo Clinic. The study included more than 2,500 adults in England, aged 54 and older. The researchers compared cor sol levels in the sample to body weight, waist circumference and body mass index (or BMI, a rough measure of body fat based on height and weight measurements). They also looked at how cor sol levels related to persistent obesity. Those par cipants with higher cor sol levels tended to have larger waist circumferences (over 40 inches for men, over 35 inches for women and a risk factor for heart disease and other problems). People with higher cor sol levels also had higher BMIs -- the higher the BMI, the higher the levels of body fat. Higher cor sol levels were also ed to greater obesity levels that persisted over the four years examined. Although the study found an associa on between cor sol and obesity, it did not prove a cause-and-effect link. One U.S. expert also ques oned the method used in the study. Currently, "the evidence for using hair samples as a weight or obesity predictor is lacking," said Connie Diekman. She's director of university nutri on at Washington University in St. Louis. The study researchers noted that using hair cor sol is a rela vely new measure that's easily obtainable and may help in researching the topic. The link between cor sol and obesity was found for both genders. "In this study, we did not see any difference between men and women," Steptoe said. Nor did the researchers find age differences among those studied. The average age of the volunteers was 68. However, since all the men and women were older, the same results may not be the same in younger adults, Steptoe said. From the study, the researchers couldn't tell whether higher cor sol levels triggered stress ea ng, leading to obesity, but nutri on and weight experts know that many who are stressed do overeat. "Managing stress ea ng is complicated," Diekman said, "and what works for some does not work for others." She suggested maintaining a regular meal schedule. That reduces blood sugar drops that can trigger overea ng. "Do not eat right from a bag or box," Diekman said. "Always put food on a plate." When you eat, avoid doing anything else, Diekman advised. Instead of checking email, watching television or movies or working, focus on the food. By Kathleen Doheny A Stressed Life May Mean a Wider Waistline Study finds chronic anxiety might raise risk of obesity

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