Stress Raises Fat Around the Middle and Heart Risks
by Kirsten Whittaker
Forest University. The research is set to appear in the next issue of the journal
Shively and her team had shown before how socially stressed moneys (at the
bottom of the pecking order in the monkey world) get blocked arteries faster than
control monkeys fed the very same diet but without the stress.
With the latest work the team wanted to learn more about stress, and how
something outside your body seems to be turned into troublesome plaque on the
inside of your body.
Female monkeys are much like human females in that they aren't as likely to get
heart disease as males. Yet the stressed female monkeys who had the dangerous
belly fat were just as likely to develop heart disease as male monkeys.
What this says for women is that if you have visceral fat and metabolic syndrome
you pretty much obliterate any protection you get from being female.
Over the two-year study period Shively and her colleagues collected a whole lot of
data on female cynomolgus monkeys - ones who were considered under stress and
those considered being stress free.
The stressed subjects had higher levels of cortisol, known to be a stress hormone,
than did monkeys not under stress. The stressed monkeys also had abnormal
menstrual cycles, meaning they were much less likely to ovulate than non-stressed
The evaluation of the subjects included a CT scan that identified visceral fat -the
medical term for the fat in your abdomen that sometimes sticks out (the "beer
belly"), though other times this fat isn't visible on the outside. Visible or not, belly fat
wraps itself around the internal organs.
Even when compared to monkeys, who were the same weight, the CT scans
showed that the subjects under stress had a lot more belly fat.
When the team looked at the animals' arteries, they found plaque as well. High levels
of cortisol, over the long term are known to cause belly fat to accumulate, as well as
making fat cells throughout the body bigger.
This is what's known as "sick fat" according to Harold Bays, MD, the medical director
of the Louisville Metabolic and Atherosclerosis Research Center who reviewed the
What's more, the monkeys with all the belly fat had metabolic syndrome, just like
people do. Metabolic syndrome, a problem for an estimated 50 million Americans, is
actually a group of risk factors all found in one person and are what put patients at
risk for heart disease, stroke and other peripheral vascular disorders as well as type
If you're worried about your own belly bulge it's not too late to do something about
While fat around the middle of the body is more worrisome than carrying weight in
other areas, the good news is that by making real, solid lifestyle changes (forget
"miracle diets" or the latest ab-flattening gadget) and doing a few targeted abdominal
exercises you can be rid of that unsightly bulge in no time.
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We all know that stress is bad for us,
and now new research finds that
when you add chronic stress to the
lives of female monkeys who eat the
typical American diet they put on
weight in a most dangerous place -
They pile on fat around the middle of
the body, affectionately known as
Fat in this area isn't just awful to look
at, its known to be trouble, making
conditions like blocked arteries and
metabolic syndrome much more
likely according to Carol A. Shively,
Ph.D. and her team out of Wake
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