Preliminary research may help explain how stress reduces your ability to lose weight.
In tests with cells and mice, University of Florida researchers found that chronic stress triggers production of a protein called betatrophin, which inhibits an enzyme involved in burning fat.
"Betatrophin reduces the body's ability to break down fat, underscoring a link between chronic stress and weight gain," study co-first author Dr Li-Jun Yang, a professor and lead investigator in the University of Florida's College of Medicine, said in a university news release.
The study was published in the February issue of the journal BBA Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids.
It's not yet clear what effect betatrophin has on fat metabolism in humans, and animal research results don't always turn out the same in people.
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But these findings suggest that reducing chronic stress might help people lose weight, according to the researchers.
The study authors pointed out that mild stress can boost people's performance over the short-term and help them get through tough situations. But chronic stress can be harmful over the long-term.
"Stress causes you to accumulate more fat, or at least slows down fat metabolism. This is yet another reason why it's best to resolve stressful situations and to pursue a balanced life," Yang said.