The Two Most Significant Drivers of The Obesity Epidemic

Man with sticker notes form all the tasks and running of his brain

Avoid these two instances, as they can significantly impact your health

These days, it doesn’t take a lot happening in our lives to create stress and anxiety.

For instance, some workplaces demand that all staff return full-time to an office. So for two years, we’ve kept ourselves at home with more time for leisure, relaxation and being with our family. Last year when my mum was diagnosed with cancer, I was very fortunate to have the support of my workplace to work mainly from home or in the hospital.

So during the COVID lockdown, I felt somewhat lucky that, at that time, I could work while Mum was sleeping and take her for little walks in the sunshine.

When she was having a good day, we had time together meant the world to me.

But I knew those moments would not last as much as I wanted. It was hugely advantageous to have lockdown in that sense, but it was hard to see doctors and visit Mum in the hospital in other ways, and we were scared that COVID would take her down.

That was in itself stressful every single day. Now, I refuse to go back to the office full-time. I love being at home, even if I have to work a lot of overtime or on the weekends. It allows me to lead a more stress-free life, where I’m not travelling on my own in the cold, dark drains of an evening.

If that situation altered, no doubt, stress would begin to rear its head again — and it can creep up on anyone of us rapidly. Constant stress can lead to obesity and the development of chronic diseases.

What the research says

To delve deeper into the ‘stressed mind,’ The Garvan Institute of Medical Researchers investigated certain areas in a mouse’s brain; when the hypothalamus controls food intake, the amygdala processes emotional responses like anxiety. When these mice became stressed over extended periods and had lots of junk food at their disposal, these mice became obese at a faster rate than the mice who consumed high-fat food in a stressful environment.

A molecule called NPY, which our brain naturally produces in response to stress stimulates our need to eat. This molecule is in both humans and mice. Another study showed that chronic stress alone raises blood sugar levels only slightly.

Significant challenges occur with improper food consumption

Problems occur when you combine this slight magnification with an abundance of processed, high-caloric foods; insulin levels can sky-rocket ten times higher than mice fed a regular diet — within a stress-free zone. Prolonged, high insulin levels cause the nerve cells to become desensitised to insulin, which stops them from detecting insulin.

These desensitised nerve cells boosted NPY levels, promoting eating and reducing the body’s normal response to burning energy through heat. This is pretty scary and can explain why obese individuals suffering from insulin resistance keep gaining weight.

These findings show a vicious cycle where chronic & high insulin levels driven by stress with high caloric diets promote more and more eating as time progresses. Although it’s not a good idea to eat junk food in general, when you combine that food intake with high-stress levels of a chronic nature, it’s a complete double whammy obesity driver.

Scientists were stunned that insulin had such a high impact on the amygdala, but it’s becoming increasingly apparent that insulin doesn’t only impact the peripheral regions of the body; it also regulates functions in the brain.

Key take away

Perhaps sometime in the future, scientists can find ways to help flick the switch against eating processed foods under chronically stressful conditions.

Although this may be hard, it can be done with experimentation and breaking terrible habits. You can help eliminate insulin resistance and lower your stress levels with exercise.

Perhaps during particular moments, the stress has exhausted your body and mind — but doing a little exercise can enhance your quality of life and push you towards a better lifestyle. So, instead of resorting to food when stressed, walk outdoors, visit the local gym, or run — food will never lessen your stress levels and worsen your condition in the long run. Please sign up via my link if you want to read more articles like this or start writing your own. I’d love to see you on the other side.

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