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Want to Reduce Fat? Reduce Stress!

Long-term stress could make people fat, according to a study of some 50 overweight middle-aged Swedish men recently published.

Disruptions in the human nervous system, or stress, can concentrate fat around the abdomen, raising the risk of diabetes as well as heart problems, a study by the university hospital in the Swedish city of Gothenburg found.

One fifth of Westerners are estimated to suffer from diabetes or cardiovascular diseases.

"The stress system has developed to deal with periods of brief stress for stone-age man preparing for battle or flight. But in today's civilized world, stress is different. One does not beat up the boss or run away from the mortgage institute," said Dr. Thomas Ljung, who led the study.

A body under stress creates a surplus of a hormone which stimulates a fat-gathering enzyme. This enzyme is more easily taken up by the abdomen than other parts of the body, the survey found.

After a long period of stress, the hormone surplus decreases but the fat remains, particularly around the bellies of modern men who need less physical exercise to survive than their forefathers.

"Positive stress, a quick rush of adrenalin, is only good for the body. It is the long-term negative stress than can lead to serious health problems," Ljung told Reuters by telephone.

Even though pot-bellies are often associated with middle-aged men, a surprisingly large number of women also have a disproportionate amount of fat around their waists, he said.


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