According to newly published research, stress raises levels of leptin and ghrelin, two hormones responsible for regulating appetite. Specifically, ghrelin (“the hunger hormone”) fuels the desire to eat, while leptin (“the satiety hormone”) tells the body to stop consuming food when we become full. An imbalance in these two hormones can lead to weight gain and obesity.
In this study, 50 women completed three appointments that were scheduled at least two weeks apart. At all three of these visits, they arrived after fasting and ate a standardized breakfast and lunch provided by researchers. They then had their blood drawn 45 minutes after each meal. Finally, they completed questionnaires that explored stressors in their lives.
The results showed that women who experienced more stressors involving interpersonal tension had greater ghrelin and lower leptin levels than those who had fewer such stressors. In other words, their bodies were sending lots of “I’m hungry” signals, but not nearly as many “I’m full” signals. The possible end result—weight gain.
Additionally, the women with many interpersonal stressors also ate diets higher in calories, fat, carbohydrates, protein, sugar, sodium and fiber.
The researchers concluded, “Ghrelin and leptin may link daily interpersonal stressors to weight gain and obesity.”
Jaremka LM, et al. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2014 Oct;48:178-88.