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Can Stress Cause Weight Gain?

How to keep the world's woes from weighing you down

Mind Over Matter continued...

And speaking of losing weight, here's one bit of news you may be happy to hear: Experts say you shouldn't try to go on a strict diet when you're under extreme or chronic stress.

In one study, published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2001, researchers from the University of British Columbia found that severely limiting calorie intake could kick off a series of biochemical events that ultimately not only increased stress levels, but could make people feel more hungry.

The researchers followed 62 women for three days. Of this group, 33 were on a diet of no more than about 1,500 calories a day, while the other 29 consumed up to about 2,200 calories daily.

After analyzing urine samples, researchers found that the women who had consumed the least food had the highest levels of cortisol. Not surprisingly, these same women also reported more stress during what researchers called "daily food-related experiences." In short, the more they restricted food intake, the greater their levels of stress hormones, and, ultimately, the more they wanted to eat.

If you find yourself chronically stressed out, the experts say, you should do what you can to decrease your stress levels, then follow a reduced-calorie, yet balanced, diet to stop the weight gain and lose the extra pounds.

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Reviewed on May 13, 2005

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