The Stress Factor - July 2017

By Brad King

Picture of women

Most people these days will tell you that they are stressed! Chronic stress has been linked to North America's five leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung disease, accidents and cirrhosis of the liver, but I have seen much evidence that also implicates stress in the number one cause of disease (and death) these days--obesity.

Author and stress researcher Kenneth Pelletier has contended that, in America, between 80-90% of all illness is linked to stress and that 75-90% of all visits to the doctor are for stress and anxiety-related concerns. 1 Many people realize how detrimental the effects of excess stress can be to their overall health profile, but very few associate everyday stresses with their ever expanding waist lines. During a stress response -- whether actual or perceived -- your adrenal glands pump out numerous stress-hormones, the most powerful of which is cortisol.

Many diseases and cases of obesity have been blamed on excess cortisol production. Cortisol is produced along the same biochemical pathway as many other hormones, and during stressful times (whether real or imagined), excess cortisol is manufactured at the expense of other healthful hormones like dihydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)--your premiere anti-aging hormone--and testosterone.

Both DHEA and testosterone are needed to maintain and grow muscle tissue--the key metabolic engine that drives metabolism (which is even more important to women due to the fact that women normally only produce one tenth the testosterone of a man). Without muscle, fat cannot be burned. The longer you maintain a stress response, the more body fat you accumulate--especially in the abdominal cavity.2,3 By the way, abdominal fat is also the most dangerous form of fat your body carries, due to the fact that it impacts the major organs and can easily increase your susceptibility to heart disease and diabetes.

Cortisol can also lead to unhealthy weight gain by affecting the degree to which you crave certain foods. 4 Constant stress can easily deplete levels of a neuropeptide called serotonin. Research shows us that when serotonin levels are low or when they are unable to remain in their special pockets called synaptic junctions, a condition called "Emotional Eating" ensues and chronic cravings for sweet and starchy foods (yes, the very foods responsible for easy fat storage) become next to impossible to ignore.5,6 After all, we don't call these types of foods comfort foods for nothing.

One of the main reasons for this is because chronic stress reduces the levels of the amino acid tryptophan, which is essential to the production of serotonin. Stress can deplete tryptophan levels by up to 90 percent in excessive situations, leaving very little for serotonin production and therefore craving control.

Thankfully, nature has once again provided a means to an end--in this case, an end to constant Emotional Eating and self medication through foods that are almost guaranteed to inflate your fat cells. Alpha-lactalbumin to the rescue Because of its extremely high ratio of tryptophan, alpha-lactalbumin, from whey protein, has shown great promise in improving our ability to deal with excessive stress, reduce Emotional Eating and elevate our moods.

A double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2000 showed that high alpha-lactalbumin whey isolates given to 29 excessively stressed subjects, raised their plasma tryptophan levels by 48% opposed to a casein diet. In the stress-vulnerable subjects, this increase in plasma tryptophan was accompanied by a decrease in cortisol and a reduced depressive state. The researchers concluded that consuming alpha-lactalbumin-rich whey protein increased plasma tryptophan ratios and, in stress-vulnerable subjects, improved their ability to deal with excessive stress by altering their serotonin levels. 7

So if your goal is to get lean and maintain an optimal metabolism, stay as far away as possible from chronic everyday stress--and try supplementing with a high quality alpha-lactalbumin rich whey protein.

 

References: 1. Pelletier, Kenneth. Mind as Healer, Mind as Slayer. New York: Delta, 1992. 2. Bjorntorp P, Rosmond R, Neuroendocrine abnormalities in visceral obesity. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 2000 Jun; 24 Suppl 2:S80-5. 3. Marin, P., et al. "Cortisol Secretion in Relation to Body Fat Distribution in Obese Premenopausal Women." Metabolism 41, no. 8 (August 1992):882-886. 4. Rosmond, R, Bouchard, C, & Björntorp, P; 5-HT2A Receptor Gene Promoter Polymorphism in Relation to Abdominal Obesity and Cortisol Obesity Research 10:585-589 (2002) 5. Gibson EL. Emotional influences on food choice: sensory, physiological and psychological pathways. Physiol Behav. 2006 Aug 30;89(1):53-61. 6. Oliver G, Wardle J, Gibson EL. Stress and food choice: a laboratory study. Psychosom Med. 2000 Nov;62(6):853-65. 7. Markus, R.C., et al. "The Bovine Protein Alpha-lactoalbumin Increases the Plasma Ratio of Tryptophan to the Other Large Neutral Amino Acids, and in Vulnerable Subjects Raises Brain Serotonin Activity, Reduces Cortisol Concentration, and Improves Mood under Stress." Amer J Clin Nut 71, no. 6: 1536-1544.




Brad KingBrad's Bio: Performance Nutritionist Nutritional Researcher - Brad King Website


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