Dr. Mark Wilson and his team at Emory University recently published their study that sought to observe the relationship between diet and exposure to psychologically stressful environments.
Female rhesus macaques (rhesus monkeys) organize themselves and maintain group stability through continual harassment and threat of aggression. Obviously, this situation is an important source of chronic stress for the monkeys that are the recipients of this aggression.
The researchers looked at the feeding patterns of the aggressive, dominant monkeys compared to the socially subordinate monkeys and found that the dominant females ate significantly less food than the subordinate monkeys. As a result, the stressed-out subordinate females gained more weight and had a higher level of the stress hormone, cortisol, a hormone that seems to be responsible for abdominal storage of fat. Fat that’s stored around the abdomen is called visceral fat and is more dangerous and associated with an increase risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
This study provides important insight into the psychological basis for the sharp increase in obesity in recent years.
Emory University (2008, May 14). Psychological Stress Linked To Overeating, Monkey Study Shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 13, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2008/05/080513125216.htm
Yale University (2000, November 23). Stress May Cause Excess Abdominal Fat In Otherwise Slender Women, Study Conducted At Yale Shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 14, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2000/11/001120072314.htm