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Fewer trees, more cortisol, and wider wasitlines?

Is your cortisol (fight or flight hormone) making you obese in only one area of your body--your abdomen? Your job or life at home could be perceived by your body as a chronic stressor without you even realizing it. Stress can be physical or emotional with the same result. If you go too long without eating between meals, the cortisol also will rise. Spikes in blood sugar from diet also raises cortisol levels. You may wish to check out the study or its abstract, "Waist-to-Hip Ratio Is Positively Associated With Bioavailable Testosterone but Negatively Associated With Sexual Desire in Healthy Premenopausal Women."

Fewer trees, more cortisol, and wider wasitlines?
Anne Hart, photography.

If you're a lean (thin) woman with a high waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), you won't get used to or stronger the more you're exposed to stress. You won't develop 'habituation'to stress. What you will do is to continue to secrete significantly more cortisol as long as you're exposed to familiar challenges your body perceives as stress. You'll excrete a lot more cortisol than lean women with a low wait-to-hip ratio. You may wish to check out, "Psychosocial Stress and Change in Weight Among US Adults."

If you have a high waist-to-hip ratio, you'll probably excrete more cortisol under stress, producing more belly fat, and it will take less stress to produce the cortisol. Lean women with a high-waist-to-hip ratio are more vulnerable to stress-related diseases and degenerative processes caused by stress. They feel the stress more deeply on the inside, and they react to stress more by producing more cortisol, which adds to the bellyfat.

According to the study, "Stress and Body Shape: Stress-Induced Cortisol Secretion Is Consistently Greater Among Women With Central Fat, " published in the medical journal, Psychosomatic Medicine 62:623-632 (2000), central fat distribution, that is a protruding abdomen and wide waistline, is related to greater psychological vulnerability to stress and cortisol reactivity.This may be especially true among lean women, who did not habituate to repeated stress. The current cross-sectional findings support the hypothesis that stress-induced cortisol secretion may contribute to central fat (abdominal fat) and demonstrate a link between psychological stress and risk for disease. You may wish to check out the study or its abstract, "Lower growth hormone and higher cortisol are associated with greater visceral adiposity, intramyocellular lipids, and insulin resistance in overweight girls."

The body shape in particular is a lean woman who gains weight in her abdomen and waist instead of on her hips and thighs. The women that gain weight in the central part of their body instead of on their hips and thighs are more vulnerable to stress because they are genetically programmed to secrete more cortisol which adds more belly fat at lower levels of stress than women who gain weight in other places and not in their abdomen (belly fat).

What the study found is that excessive central fat puts one at greater risk of disease

In animal studies, stress-induced cortisol secretionhas been shown to increase central fat. The objective of the 2000 study published in Psychosomatic Medicine, a journal of biobehavioral medicine, was to assess whether women with central fat distribution(as indicated by a high waist-to-hip ratio [WHR]), across arange of body mass indexes, display consistently heightenedcortisol reactivity to repeated laboratory stressors.

The test involved 59 healthy premenopausal women, 30 with a high waist-to-hip ratio(WHR) and 29 with a low waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). Researchers exposed the women to consecutive laboratorysessions over 4 days (three stress sessions and one rest session).During these sessions, cortisol and psychological responseswere assessed.

As a result of the test, women with a high waist-to-hip ratio evaluated the laboratory challengesas more threatening, performed more poorly on them, and reportedmore chronic stress. These women secreted significantly morecortisol during the first stress session than women with a low waist-to-hip ration (WHR). Furthermore, lean women with a high waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) lacked habituationto stress in that they continued to secrete significantly morecortisol in response to now familiar challenges (days 2 and3) than lean women with a low waist-to-hip ratio (WHR).

What you should do if you're genetically programmed to gain weight around your belly and waist, no matter how thin you are with thin arms, thighs, neck, and face, small breasts, cocave chest, and regardless of how short or tall you are, if you are gaining weight in the middle of your body (abdominal area), you're more vulnerable to stress-related diseases and metabolic syndrome. In addition to changes in diet to prevent metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, too much insulin and cortisol being released into the blood every time some event or issue stresses you, and having a low stress level, find ways to avoid the stress as much as realistically is possible. You also may wish to check out, "Stress Hormones: How Do They Measure Up?"

Whether it be eating protein in the morning and not too much in the evening, exercising, getting enough vegetables and fruits, and moving away from the most chronic, continuous source of stress, you should be aware that you're going to react to stress internally differently from someone with an hour glass figure (small waist, larger hips and thighs). It's based on how much cortisol your body secrets either without you realizing that you're reacting to stress internally or you feel the stress and try to step away. Be aware of stress hormones effects on your body. You can check out the abstract of a study, "Full Changes of Body Composition in Bulimia Nervosa: Increased Visceral Fat and Adrenal Gland Size."

Can green health environments affect your genetic waist-to-hip ratio?

A few years ago, the University of California, Davis in the Sacramento and Davis regional areas installed an environment of green lighting, conservation, even cafeteria and food changes. But does spending your workday or sleeping time in a green environment change your cortisol hormones so that you don't gain as much belly fat? A large study with low-income urban elderly found that trees, plants and green lawns were helpful in promoting green health. More trees in Sacramento does contribute to greener health because trees are an environmental feature which affects cortisol levels. You may wish to check out the abstract of a study, "Psychosocial and Behavioral Predictors of Inflammation in Middle-Aged and Older Adults: The Chicago Health, Aging, and Social Relations Study."

See the article, [PDF] Pilot Study – Report. Even going to any Sacramento Park and looking at the greenery is better for your health. See the article, Going To The Park May Make Your Life Better | Surprising Science. Japanese researchers found that just 15 minutes of walking in a forest environment resulted in less stress along with lower cortisol levels and pulse rate. To create more green environments, Sacramento needs to create indoor or outdoor 'rainforest' exhibits or plant more trees where people can walk in a mini-forest environment to lower blood pressure and cortisol levels, if they're too high in the first place from Sacramento's heavy traffic and air pollution. You may wish to check out the study or its abstract, "The Pathogenetic Role of Cortisol the the Metabolic Syndrome: A Hypothesis." Or see, "Symptom onset and the socially sanctioned pathway: the example of diet." You also can view the YouTube educational video: What is cortisol (hormone)? How does it affect your body?

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