Stress Makes You Accumulate More Fat, Says New Research

Extreme stress keeps your body fat intact – it triggers the synthesis of a protein that blocks the enzyme known to break down fats. The paper is published in BBA Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids, and is available on ScienceDirect.


Chronic stress is detrimental to the overall health of a person. It affects both the mental and physical systems. New evidence now shows its effect on fat breakdown mediated by protein betatrophin.

The findings show betatrophin as a stress-response protein causing the down-regulation of the enzyme adipocyte triglyceride lipase (ATGL), which breaks down fat that has been stored in the body, thereby affecting fat metabolism.

One of the authors, Li-Jun Yang from the University of Florida, explains that the action of betatrophin in lowering the ability of the body to break down fat links chronic stress and weight gain.

The team ascertained the role of the protein in body fat regulation by conducting tests on cells obtained from both mice and humans. Then, they analysed the increasing levels of the protein as the mouse models were undergoing environmental and metabolic stress; both forms of stress would stimulate betatrophin production in the liver and in fat tissue. Though this association was not, however, tested in humans, the researchers say the results have potential implications for us too.

The team concluded that the two types of stress would cause a significantly greater production of betatrophin, and thus slower fat-breakdown processes. Yang says that this provides new insight into the mechanisms that connect stress, betatrophin and the metabolism of fat.

The study findings constitute yet another reason to justify the beneficial effects of reducing stress.

“Stress causes you to accumulate more fat, or at least slows down fat metabolism. This is yet another reason why it’s best to resolve stressful situations and to pursue a balanced life,” Yang says.

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