Social stress can make you fat around the middle. And fat at your tummy puts you at greater risk of heart attack.
That is the conclusion of an animal study that appeared in a recent issue of Obesity, the peer-reviewed journal of the Obesity Society.
Female monkeys were fed a Western-style diet containing fat and cholesterol. Over time, the monkeys who were lower down in the social order tended to develop more fat around the middle than the more dominant monkeys. Researchers at Wake Forest University school of medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., found that the more socially isolated monkeys released stress hormones that promote deposits of fat around the abdomen. This kind of fat promotes atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque in the blood vessels.
Females are naturally more protected against heart disease than men, typically developing heart disease 10 years later than males. But that protection is lost when stress and tummy fat increase.
The study’s results reinforce basic health advice: watch what you eat, exercise regularly, and try to manage the stress in your life.