New Science reveals that stress steroids trigger the growth of midsection flab and that dieting itself can cause the fattening compounds to be released. Here, how you can outsmart the dieting/stress-steroid cycle that has made it so difficult to whittle your waist. Between family responsibilities, household pressures, work duties and car hassles (just to name a few), you are all too familiar with the working of stress on your sense of well-being. And if you are like most of us, you have become an expert at hiding the way those pressures make you feel. But America’s favorite doctor can gauge at a glance how many burdens you shoulder: “I can usually tell if someone is stressed out and not just by looking at their belly size,” Mehmet C. Oz, M.D., director of the integrative medicine program at the Columbia University Medical Center and host of the Dr. Oz Show, he said.
How to Blast Stubborn Belly Fat
The reason: Stress trips a glandular trigger that’s responsible for stockpiling fat in the omentum, a veil of fat that runs under the abdominal muscles and partially covers the internal organs.
“When you are not happy with work, or whatever is stressing you out in life, chemicals released from the brain immediately go down to the adrenal glands, two little dunce cap-like fat pads on top of the kidneys,” he has explained.
And once the adrenals are activated, they send out their own chemicals that prime the body for fight or flight by increasing bodily processes such as heart rate and respiration. Dr. Oz told his audience, “The adrenals also change the way fat in your omentum grows because they secrete steroids that go into the belly fat, and they get the belly fat to grow larger.”
The Stress Steroid – Belly Fat’s Best Friend
Research has pinpointed the stress steroid cortisol as the key adrenal culprit behind belly fat: It keeps both insulin and blood sugar levels high that’s bad news since insulin fosters the storage of excess blood sugars as fat, particularly in the belly. “And because fat cells in the belly are especially high in receptors for both cortisol and insulin, repeated stress insults add to fat storage in this region. What’s more, cortisol breaks down lean muscle (the very type of tissue that burns calories most efficiently) and spikes appetite for several hours after other stress effects subside.
Originally, cortisol induced hunger helped the body replace the energy it used up when running from a stressor like a tiger. We don’t literally run from stressors anymore, yet cortisol still produces that hunger and we gain weight. In fact, a study at the University of California at San Francisco found that when women were subjected to a stressful situation, then left in a room with free access to food, they consumed 57 percent more calories in the half hour afterward compared with their less-stressed peers.
How Stress Leads to Belly Fat:
1. Fight or flight signals in response to a stressful event are sent from the hypothalamus to the pituitary gland.
2. The pituitary triggers the dunce cap shaped adrenal glands located a top the kidneys to release cortisol, a stress steroid.
3.Cortisol in the bloodstream spikes appetite and leads to increased fat deposition in the omentum, a veil of fatty tissue.
What a Difference Stress Makes!
On a recent episode of his show, Dr. Oz held up a healthy omentum (a kind of “fat veil” that covers some internal organs and lies underneath the abdominal muscles). His studio audience volunteer, Bonnie, held up an omentum that was grown large, typical of what can happen if stress steroids spur belly fat to grow.
Why Diets leave Belly Fat Untouched:
Startling new science sheds light on why women who tackle stress related weight gain with an iron willed approach end up feeling frustrated when belly fat doesn’t budge: Dieting itself foils fat loss efforts by increasing the level of cortisol in the body. In fact, recent finding from a separate UCSF study revealed higher levels of psychological stress (and notable increases in cortisol output) among women who counted calories and restricted their daily food intake than in those who didn’t. dr. Peeke affirms, “This is strong evidence that obsessing over every bite constitutes a form of stress that sends cortisol into overdrive.”
And breaking news from the University of Pennsylvania suggests that dieting may have a lasting impact: Mice that were put on a diet that decreased their calories by 10 to 15 percent exhibited cortisol surges in response to stress that were over three time higher than mice whose diets weren’t restricted. What’s more, elevations persisted after their dieting had stopped. And when subjected to stress again, the former “dieters” proved more likely than control mice to soothe themselves with high fat food. When researchers examined the animals’ cellular DNA, they discovered alterations in several genes that govern stress reactions and eating behavior. “This means that by dieting, you may create new proteins that affect gene expression,” says Dr. Peeke. “Essentially, you train you body to react to elevated cortisol in afaster knee jerk way. You become more sensitive to effects of cortisol, so it drives up appetite further.”
The Dynamic Duo that Blasts Stress fat
Omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin C blasts stress fat. If dieting itself increases the cortisol that packs on belly fat, what’s a stressed out women who wants to lose weight do do? Luckily, new findings point to two nutrients omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin C that can keep a lid on cortisol levels and more than triple the body’s fat burning ability.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids.
- Vitamin C.
OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS:
For proof that omega 3s dial down stress, Dr. Oz points to an experiment conducted for the Discovery Health series The Truth about Food (which he hosted). In the study, researchers had London cab drivers (a group noted by Dr. Oz to be so on edge that “all it takes is a 15 minute ride to send the cabbies’ hearts racing and their cortisol levels through the roof”) add four weekly servings of fish rich in omega 3s such as salmon, mackered, haddock and sardines to their diets. “So guess what we found?” Dr. Oz asked viewers about the 12 week study. “A 22 percent reduction in cortisol.”
And the impressive benefits of omega 3s don’t stop there. In a study at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, subjects who supplemented with fish oil & salmon oil daily gained lean tissue mass and lost 3 1/2 times more fat then those who dosed with a safflower oil placebo.
|The reason omegas are so effective: They enhance the activity of insulin receptors on cells, making cells responsive to small amounts of insulin, so the body does not produce excess amounts of this fat storing hormone.
They also increase the storage of glycogen (muscle fuel), so the body’s calorie burning lean tissue is preserved during weight loss. But even more compelling is the mechanism by which fatty acids found in fish and its oil melt the stubborn body fat that’s been stored for years.
Omega 3s switch on a cellular protein known as uncoupling protein 3, which increase thermogenesis the rate at which calories are used up to generate heat energy so fewer calories are stored as fat.
To get the benefits eat oily fish at least three times per week and by taking 1 to 3 grams of a fish oil supplement that contains the study backed fatty acids EPA and DHA each day. Try Nordic Naturals, Ulimate Omega, 1,000 mg. Fish Oil.
In research conducted at the Academy of Sciences of Czech Republic in Prague, women who supplemented with this amount achieved BMI reductions that were nearly 30 percent greater than women who didn’t get ad daily dose of omega 3s.
Shop Now and Save Nordic Naturals, Ultimate Omega, 1,000 mg Fish Oil, Soft Gels:
The adrenal glands contain higher levels of vitamin C than nearly any other organ in the body. “That’s not really a surprise since vitamin C is a critical player in stress reactions in the body in fact, research shows that the demand for C increases by up to tenfold during periods of stress,” explains neil Nathan, M.D, California. And since the human body can quickly deplete adrenal gland supplies.” That’s bad news when it comes to controlling cortisol since studies at the University of Maryland at Baltimore suggests that the adrenal glands register even marginal C deficiencies as a stress situation much like an illness and up their cortisol out put in response.
|But when C intake is adequate, it can help stress proof the body and fat proof it, as well. “Vitamin C has the ability to do a lot of things, including reducing the ability of stress steroids to pulse when you get stressed out,” Dr. Oz has explained.
He has also pointed to research indicating that vitamin C is essential for making carnitine, a compound used by the body to turn fat into fuel, as a reason to make the vitamin your fat burning friend: In a study at Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus in Mesa, people who had low blood concentrations of the vitamin burned 25 percent less fat during a treadmill test than those who had adequate levels.
To keep your body’s fat burning ability set on “high,” Dr. Oz has advised a C intake of 1,200 mg per day. That’s a target you can easily hit by eating C rich foods and taking a supplement containing 500 mg of C each morning and evening. And when stress threatens to push you to the breaking point point, Dr. Oz has noted that taking 3,000 mg of Vitamin C daily is a smart option.
In a German study, subjects who took that amount in three 1,000 mg. dose per day experienced lower cortisol spikes and reported reductions in psychological stress when exposed to taxing tasks.
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–Mehmet Oz, M.D.
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