Cortisol, Stress, Fat – What’s the Link?

Cortisol, Stress, Fat – What’s the Link?

The Connection Between Cortisol Stress and Fat

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Written by: Femi Doyle-Marshall


When we talk about health the biggest topic that is often raised is stress and stress management. We tend to lean on how this negative impacts our body and mind.

Cortisol plays a role in this as well.

So let’s begin with explain what cortisol is and get a better understanding of the role it plays in the human body linking to stress and fat.


What’s Cortisol?

On the molecular level it is a steroid hormone naturally produced by the human body

It is released by the adrenal gland just above the kidneys activated during stress and to regulate blood sugar.

We often read it on blogs or hear about it on TV.

Is it really bad?

Simple response, no.

Cortisol has the ability to be anti-inflammatory agent for the body and activate anti-stress pathways which is vital when we are going through trauma or facing general stressful periods. It also has the ability to inhibit areas of the body that can impact the immune system.

The negatives of cortisol is usually found when it is in use for a long time.



Things That Spike Cortisol

Mental/Emotional Stress: These could be environmental things, events or traumas that have happened in life. Events may not of occurred. Managing how this affects our mood and behaviour is important.

Excessive Caffeine: High doses of caffeine has been linked to increasing cortisol for some individuals. Observing total intake may assist in regulating high spikes in cortisol.

Poor Sleep Hygiene: The body requires rest to recover and sleep is one of the best ways to normalize the effects of stress. Poor sleep patterns or sleep hygiene can negative impact the body increasing cortisol.

Depression: Mental and emotional impacts of depression also play a role and take a toll on the body. This is something to recognize when health is the primary objective.



Cortisol Impacts on The Body

As mentioned earlier cortisol is a hormone that supports sugar normalization, inhibition of inflammatory agents among many others. Excessive periods of high cortisol levels also has negative repercussions.


Cognitive Performance

Your brain plays a significant role in our ability to think clearly and process day to day tasks. Cortisol has an impact.

In children, higher evening cortisol levels or stress was linked to slower reaction time and lower verbal memory. This ties into us recognizing the environment children are in and how stress can reduce their ability to perform in a peak state.

Another study assessing mental tasks found “ higher cortisol responses decreased attention compared with their attention after the control session.” This was researching adults showing that our brain slows down under excessive periods of stress. That would increase our cortisol which is something we don’t want.


Fat Accumulation

The body tends to respond differently under stress which elevating cortisol could create abnormal health patterns. Poor habits can be created under stress which can also translate to increasing total body fat impacting health.

We need to focus on managing our cortisol levels to improve our total health.



Strategies To Reduce Cortisol Levels

Long-term weight loss in women has been shown to reduce cortisol levels reversing the detrimental effects of obesity.

Yoga/meditative practices as a treatment method has been shown to potentially work as an anti-stress cortisol-reducing process.

Stress management has the ability to combat the negative impacts of increased cortisol levels due to new skill acquisition.

Physical activity and/or exercise may have a positive effect in the normalization of stress based hormones relating to cortisol and testosterone.



And that’s it for today. Be sure to contact us if you have any questions. We are here to help make what you need happen! Feel free to reach out if you have any concerns at all.