If you are like most Westerners out there, you are probably battling some excess weight and the odd spurts of depression.
Currently, 2 out of every 3 US or Canadian adults are either overweight or obese, that is about 67% of the North American population.
As for depression about 1 out of every 10 US or Canadian adults experience diagnosed depression at least at one point in their lives, so about 10% of the population. This does not take into account undiagnosed cases.
Some people are depressed because they are overweight, while some eat and thus are overweight because they are depressed.
So how where does this vicious cycle begin and end?
It is really difficult to determine exactly what comes first for most people: depression or obesity. In many cases it is a combination of both.
In a recent study at UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dr. M. Lutter and Dr. J. Zigman, have found one answer to this problem through a link between being depressed and as a result overeating. Read the full story.
The answer lies in our hunger hormone. Each of us has a natural hunger hormone called ghrelin. What the researchers have found, is that aside from it being released when we don’t eat; it appears to be released in times of stress induced depression and anxiety. The reason for this, researchers hypothesize is that it may actually defend the body against these stressors.
Dr. Lutter and Dr. Zigman tested these theories using mice. Their results indicate that when mice were stressed, their ghrelin hormone increased. This resulted in a decrease of depressive and anxious behaviors, but at the same time, in taking in higher than normal calorie levels. So while the ghrelin seems to protect against stress and anxiety, it has a nasty side effect of overeating and thus becoming overweight.
Dr. Lutter said, “Our findings support the idea that these hunger hormones don’t do just one thing; rather, they coordinate an entire behavioral response to stress and probably affect mood, stress and energy levels.”
So while the doctors have found a way to help people suppress their appetites, it would come at a cost of potentially experiencing depression and anxiety.
With these findings, the doctors are going to continue their research to pin point the exact area of the brain that is responsible for ghrelin action and also look into this research further to help people with anorexia nervosa and possibly using ghrelin as a natural anti-depressant.
So if you have ever found yourself to be stressed and/or depressed it is probably not surprising for you to hear that your appetite increased and thus you took in more calories. Many people experience large weight gains during the most stressful times in their life.
Now although Dr. Lutter and Dr. Zigman have uncovered a piece of the depression and obesity puzzle, we must still remember that it is through conscious thought and action that we are in control of our body and the food does not go into our mouths by itself.
So if you are suffering from depression or stress, it is important to realize that although food may make you feel better in the short term, long term you are going to have to battle a bigger problem of obesity and all the health problems associated with that.
Hence, making some conscious life changes and participating in stress and depression relieving activities, of which physical exercise is the best kind, will not only lift your spirits and help you effectively deal with stress but also keep you healthy in the long run.