Obesity and stress pack a double hit for health

September 22, 2014

If you're overweight, you may be at greater risk for stress-related diseases like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, according to a new study by Brandeis University.

It's long known that can trigger biological responses similar to the effects of illness or injury, including . While normal inflammation is an important part of our body's healing response, runaway inflammation can contribute to chronic and life-threatening diseases.

In a recently published paper in Brain, Behavior and Immunity, Brandeis researchers observed that overweight and have higher levels of -induced inflammation than those within a healthy weight-range.

"We've known that overweight and obese individuals already have chronic, low grade inflammation," says psychology professor Nicolas Rohleder, the study's principal investigator. "Now, it seems that when you add stress to the mix, it's a double hit."

The paper was authored by graduate student Christine McInnis, with fellow doctoral candidates Danielle Gianferante, Luke Hanlin, and Xuejie Chen, as well as co-investigators Myriam Thoma, Juliana Breines, and Suzi Hong.

The researchers measured interleukin-6 (IL-6), an inflammatory agent linked to stress, to evaluate inflammation levels in normal-weight and overweight individuals over the course of two psychological stress tests. They classified weight based on several factors, including body mass index (BMI) and . Individuals with a BMI of 25 or higher were classified as overweight.

On the first day of testing, lean and reacted similarly to stress, despite higher starting levels of IL-6 in overweight participants. On the second day of testing, however, the IL-6 levels of overweight participants nearly doubled, while the levels of lean participants remained the same as on the first day.

McInnis and Rohleder observed that the relationship between BMI and IL-6 levels was linear—the higher the BMI, even among lean individuals, the higher the IL-6.

"It seems that every percentage point of body fat makes your more susceptible to inflammation," says McInnis.

With about two thirds of Americans classified as , and worldwide obesity rates doubling since 1980, understanding the health risks of obesity could not be more important, says McInnis.

"We know that there are serious diseases associated with obesity. Now we are one step closer to understanding how and why," she says.

Explore further: Researchers explore the relationship between self-compassion and health

Related Stories

ASCO: BMI, menopause status linked to breast inflammation

September 5, 2014

(HealthDay)—Body mass index (BMI) and postmenopausal status are independently associated with breast white adipose tissue (WAT) inflammation, according to a study scheduled to be presented at the American Society of Clinical ...

Recommended for you

Losing sleep over climate change

May 26, 2017

Climate change may keep you awake—and not just metaphorically. Nights that are warmer than normal can harm human sleep, researchers show in a new paper, with the poor and elderly most affected. According to their findings, ...

Vitamin D supplements could help pain management

May 23, 2017

Vitamin D supplementation combined with good sleeping habits may help manage pain-related diseases. This paper published in the Journal of Endocrinology, reviews published research on the relationship between vitamin D levels, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.