Advertisement

How do my cortisol levels affect my weight?

Ms. Ashley Koff, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Cortisol is the body's chief stress hormone that also controls how your body processes carbs, fats, and proteins, and helps it to reduce inflammation. Because it's the hormone responsible for protecting you, its actions increase your appetite, tell your body to stock up on more fat, and break down materials that can be used for quick forms of energy, including muscle. Not all that you'd like to happen, but when your body senses stress (even when you know it's not the kind that will physically kill you in ten seconds or less), it thinks you won't see food again for a while -- or it may need an ample supply of fuel to camp out on during a famine or use to make a mad dash. In other words, cortisol causes tissues to break down, including muscle, skin, and collagen, while at the same time assembling fat.

For this reason, excessive cortisol levels can wreak havoc on the body, making it hard to lose weight, replenish cells, encourage the growth of new cells, and form new youth-building collagen. Excess cortisol over time can lead to increased abdominal fat, irritability and full-blown depression, bone loss, a suppressed immune system, fatigue, and an increased risk for insulin resistance, diabetes, and heart disease just to name a few things. Everything takes a hit, including blood vessels that become more fragile and can't keep meeting demands. Cortisol does, however, serve a positive role. It helps immune cells attack infectious invaders and tells the brain when those invaders have been taken care of. And another way to look at its effects in mobilizing fat and upping your appetite is that it builds up energy reserves (calories) that your muscles may need soon. But for the most part, you don't need those energy reserves because you're not in dire straits. You're just overreacting to a trivial stressor that your body interprets as something serious. But it has a profound impact on you regardless.
Mom Energy: A Simple Plan to Live Fully Charged

More About this Book

Mom Energy: A Simple Plan to Live Fully Charged

       From celebrated dietitian Ashley Koff and fitness trainer to the stars Kathy Kaehler comes Mom Energy, an exciting new way for moms to tap into their own natural and renewable sources of...

Continue Learning about Obesity

When your 401(k) Gets Smaller, This Gets Bigger
When your 401(k) Gets Smaller, This Gets Bigger
If tough economic times have turned zipping up your jeans into Mission Impossible, you're not alone. New data is more revealing than most celebs' Osca...
Read More
How does hypothyroidism affect morbid obesity?
MountainView HospitalMountainView Hospital
Hypothyroidism can contribute to morbid obesity but is not the sole cause. Even with treatment for h...
More Answers
What should I be aware of if I am overweight and need abdominal surgery?
Anthony L. Komaroff, MDAnthony L. Komaroff, MD
We all have a fair amount of fatty tissue in our abdominal cavities that surgeons must deal with...
More Answers
Why Is Diabetes So Devastating?
Why Is Diabetes So Devastating?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.