Can stress really cause unexplained weight gain? Here is what science proved

You may have heard that stress can cause unexplained weight gain. But is this really the case?

In this article, we will discuss the science behind weight gain in response to stress and what experts recommend you do if your weight is increasing due to stress. In fact, we will look straight at studies results to see that.

Ready? let’s start…

Human beings have known for a long time that weight gain can be caused by stress and anxiety, as it wreaks havoc on different aspects of our health. It inhibits the body’s metabolism, slows down digestion, and leads to poor appetite control. These symptoms can lead people of all ages and genders to pack on pounds.

To know science opinion on this, we will represent 2 studies results.

Study 1:

The effects of stress on body weight: biological and psychological predictors of change in BMI

Published on: NIH – National Center for Biotechnology Information


From Kings College London, Institute of Psychiatry, London:

  • Cliff Roberts,
  • Nicholas Troop,
  • Frances Connan,
  • Janet Treasure,
  • Iain C Campbell

Study summary:

This study investigates HEALTHY individual differences in the effects of stress on body weight (BMI).

Study results:

  • %57 of volunteers had gained weight by the examination period.
  • Regression analysis showed that change in daily cortisol secretion significantly predicted change in BMI and that mastery significantly moderated this relationship.
  • Change in cortisol secretion also significantly predicted change in dietary restraint, and this was moderated by dietary restraint.

Study 2:

Effects of Chronic Social Stress on Obesity.

Published on: US National Library of Medicine


  • Karen A. Scott (Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine),
  • Susan J. Melhorn (University of Washington, Harborview Medical Center),
  • and Randall R. Sakai (Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine)

Study summary:

The study outlines the stress response and how its derangement can negatively affect metabolic health through changes in feeding behavior and metabolic function. The study reviews evidence from healthy and unhealthy humans and animal models, with a focus on chronic social stress studies ongoing in our laboratory.

Study results:

  • Stress contributes to increased weight gain and visceral weight.
  • In addition to the metabolic effects, stress can also badly affect appetite and influence dietary preference.
  • Men and women that are overweight or at the upper limits of “normal” weight are more likely to gain weight in response to stress than those that are of lower weight
  • Many people who increase food intake in response to stress report craving foods high in fats and sugar.
  • Stress leads to SNS activation which causes the high levels of basal catecholamines to induce downregulation or desensitization of adrenergic receptors in adipose tissue. This, in turn, inhibits lipolysis (breakdown fat) upon activation of the SNS, and leads to insulin resistance.

From just these two studies we can CLEARLY see that stress is behind unexplained weight gains for those who are already suffering from weight. In addition, it seems stress also affects healthy people and can cause them weight gain.

There are many other studies that prove the same, you can find them if you search.

So, what solution can prevent stress from developing and make you lose weight the same time?

We already discuss the causes in this post, so it’s a good idea to avoid the causes, but it can’t cure stress biological root causes in your body by just doing so.

Also we discussed in that article a more powerful solution that can do so:

The simple pre-breakfast recharge, or as my friends called it “The ancient Japanese recharge”.

Stay happy and healthy,

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