Can cortisol affect your weight loss goals? Know what an expert has to say

Losing weight is a task. However, people who remain under state of chronic stress tend to have higher levels of cortisol in the body, and that can impede weight loss efforts.
Manage weight with Brazil nuts
Manage weight with Brazil nuts. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Purvi Kalra Updated: 7 May 2024, 03:57 pm IST
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Among the many hormones in the body that serve as chemical messengers, cortisol is one of them. Usually known as the stress hormone, owing to its role in our body’s stress response, its function in the human body goes far and beyond. Some people wonder if cortisol levels in the body influence body weight. Some believe that cortisol can hinder weight loss strategies. Let’s find out what is true about the link between cortisol and weight.

Health Shots got in touch with Dr Pramod V Satya, Consultant-Internal Medicine, Manipal Hospital, Millers Road, Bengaluru, to find out how cortisol can impact weight loss efforts.

What is cortisol?

Cortisol, also known as glucocorticoids, is a crucial hormone produced by the adrenal gland in the human body. It plays an essential role in various psychological processes.

Cortisol can impede your weight loss efforts
The stress hormone can impede your weight loss goals. Image courtesy: Adobe stock

As per the expert, some of the functions of cortisol include:

1.It is the most important hormone for metabolic functions, aiding in the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, and protein.
2. Cortisol also helps regulate blood pressure and maintains the body’s fluid balance.
3. It is also a key component in several hormones, including those controlling sexual and growth functions.

Adrenal glands, found just above your kidneys, secrete this hormone. Apart from aiding in your body’s stress response, some of its other functions include:

• Escalating blood sugar levels
• Curbing inflammation
• Helps in the metabolism of nutrients
• High levels of cortisol attack our immune system

Cortisol is generally released in close association with your body’s circadian rhythm. Around 50-60 percent of the cortisol is released during 30-40 minutes of walking, and its levels fluctuate throughout the day, says the expert.

The pituitary gland and hypothalamus, located in our brain, regulate its production and release. While the normal release of cortisol preps the body to fight any potentially harmful situation, persistent elevations can have negative side effects.

Can cortisol affect weight loss efforts?

When cortisol levels are within the normal range, it is essential for proper nourishment and overall well-being. In this case, cortisol does not impede weight loss efforts. However, when excessive cortisol is introduced into the body through medications like steroids, it can lead to weight gain. Therefore, in such cases, it becomes necessary to stop using steroids or opt for steroid-sparing drugs to facilitate weight loss, explains Dr Pramod V Satya.

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Stress causes you to overeat, and that is bad for health! Here’s how to stop. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

High levels of cortisol or stress can lead to overeating

In some people, cortisol levels always stay chronically elevated. This can be due to extreme stress or a condition called Cushing’s Syndrome, where the blood levels of cortisol remain high.

Also read: Is too much stress making you gain weight? Expert clears the ai

Some of the side effects of high cortisol include:

• Weight gain
• Elevated blood pressure
• Tiredness
• Mood swings
• Thinning of skin
• Irritable mood
• Difficulty in focusing
• Insulin resistance

Under the state of chronic stress, it gets tedious to maintain healthy eating habits.

If levels of cortisol are normal and no additional cortisol is taken, it will not cause hindrance in weight loss strategies. Only when cortisol levels become abnormally high due to external factors does it interfere with weight loss.

“It is important to note that cortisol is a vital hormone with many essential functions in the body. However, chronic stress and sustained high cortisol levels, often caused by ongoing stressors, can have negative effects on various aspects of health, including weight management. Managing stress through lifestyle changes, such as relaxation techniques, regular exercise, and a balanced diet, can help mitigate the negative impacts of cortisol on weight loss efforts,” says the expert.

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About the Author

After testing her skill-set in the field of management and marketing, Purvi Kalra is exploring the world of turning thoughts to words. Her penchant for writing stems for being an avid reader all her life. Her work drives her to be better every day. ...Read More

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