Beware and get your stress treated, as a study warns people who suffer from long-term stress may be more prone to obesity.

Researchers from the University College London found higher levels of cortisol – a hormone which regulates the body’s response to stress – over several months is associated with increasing weight and more persistently, overweight.

The study appeared in the journal Obesity.

The research involved 2,527 people aged 54 and older taking part in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, taking data over a four-year period.

The scientists took a lock of hair 2cm long from each participant which was cut as close possible to a person’s scalp — this represented approximately two months’ hair growth with associated accumulated levels of cortisol.

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They also examined the participants’ weight, body mass index and waist circumference and how the hair cortisol related to the persistence of obesity over time.

The findings indicate that people who had higher levels of cortisol present in their hair tended to have larger waist circumference measurements, were heavier, and had a higher body mass index (BMI).

Individuals classified as obese on the basis of their BMI (greater than or equal to 30) or waist circumference (greater than or equal to 102cm in men, 88cm in women) had particularly high levels of hair cortisol.

“These results provide consistent evidence that chronic stress is associated with higher levels of obesity,” said lead researcher Dr Sarah Jackson.

“People who had higher hair cortisol levels also tended to have larger waist measurements, which is important because carrying excess fat around the abdomen is a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, and premature death,” Jackson added.

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“Hair cortisol is a relatively new measure which offers a suitable and easily obtainable method for assessing chronically high levels of cortisol concentrations in weight research and may therefore aid in further advancing understanding in this area,” Jackson added. (ANI)

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