Cortisol and Weight Loss

Approximately 97% of dieters regain everything they lost and some within 3 years. This starts the yo-yo dieting. Yo-yo dieting has been linked to heart disease, insulin resistance, higher blood pressure, inflammation and long-term weight gain. Research has shown that Americans eat for lots of reasons, but usually not because of hunger. They eat because of family, friends, colors, smells and a myriad of other “food cues.”

Amid the many weight loss books four things remain common to all: 1) eat carbs in the form of fiber or whole grains, 2) avoid trans and saturated fats, 3) eat lean protein, and 4) eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Stress can make it difficult to lose weight. Stress triggers cravings for carb-rich foods. Stress hormone, cortisol, can also increase fat storage.

Cortisol is an important hormone produced by the adrenal glands, which is activated by stress of any kind. It is an anti-inflammatory hormone and releases sugar from the liver and muscles into the blood as an instant fuel source for stressful events. It can help burn fat but becomes a fat-storing hormone when it turns body-muscle proteins into sugar fuel. This forces insulin to deal with the excess sugar producing weight gain in the abdomen.

Cortisol can be very destructive on the body’s proteins, especially the bones, leading to thinning of the bones. With chronic stress, cortisol steals these proteins to use as fuel. That is why some people have trouble losing weight on high protein diets. If the adrenals are releasing too much sugar from the tissues and turning the muscles into sugar, these fat-burning hormones get blocked.

Artificial sweeteners aggravate this hormone. Sugar alcohols such as Splenda, xylitol and mannitol worsen the adrenals and inhibit weight loss by causing water retention. People who have weak adrenals do not deal well with stress. Excessive worry and anxiety are common today. In addition to physical exercise, relaxation techniques can help reduce stress and control weight.

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