Stress can cause many diseases. The ability to manage stress is important to our survival. Obesity is an epidemic in the world. According to the WHO estimates, the number of obese people will double to 700 million in 2012 from 200 million in 2005. It is one of the most difficult diseases to treat. Many patients with obesity have other family members with obesity. During stress, the body releases a chemical called neuropeptide Y or NPY that is linked with appetite, weight gain and obesity. A team of researchers led by Zofia Zukowska of Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington found that neurotransmitter NPY can 'unlock' Y2 receptors in the body's fat cells, to promote growth of the cells in size and number.
During the study, the scientists first stressed the mice, and then fed half of them with a normal mouse diet and the other half with a high fat, high sugar diet, equivalent to human junk food. After examining the mice, researchers found stressed mice gained twice as much fat as those that consumed the same high-calorie diet. Surprisingly, the stressed mice did not store weight when they blocked or removed the gene.
NPY induces the growth of immature fat cells, coaxes mature fat cells to get bigger and promotes blood vessels necessary to sustain fat tissue. The stressed out junk food eaters gained the largest amount of fat, deposited around their abdomen, developed high blood pressure, early diabetes mellitus, high cholesterol and metabolic syndrome. In humans, this type of obesity would translate into the apple shape type of obesity.
How can one fight this kind of disease? The following are suggestions that can help:
- Find time to exercise. When you are under stress, you tend to lose motivation to do many things that may help you, such as exercising because the stress may cause depression. Exercise is an antidote for stress.
- Practice mindfulness. This meditation practice will make you live one day at a time so that you do not stress yourself about, say, you job interview tomorrow. This is because being scared about tomorrow is crippling and makes your condition worse. Living moment by moment is not easy to practice. However, like everything else, practice brings perfection. Remember, you are human and will slip many times. However, when you slip gently go back and practice going with the flow.
- Be flexible and do not be rigid. Be like the water flowing over rocks. The water flows seamlessly and conforms to the shapes of the rocks on which it travels. It does not struggle to maintain its shape all the time. It adapts and cooperates because all it wants to do is to get to its destination without trying to proof anything to anybody. Its motto is "just get me there."
- If you confront a stressful situation, try to find the meaning in your suffering. That way, you will find it easier to hang in the trenches with the hope that the night would not last forever. If you have the Devine in your life, it helps to talk to Her. Having the Devine on your side helps you build resilience and gives you hope.
- Watch your diet, because food is medicine. Even if you have stress and you take the right food, you would be healthy.