Can long-term stress make you gain weight?

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- If you've dropped junk food, stepped up your exercise routine and still can't lose weight, preventive medicine expert Dr. Warren Peters suggests cutting something else out: stress.

"When we are under stress, we don't sleep well," he said. "And when we don't sleep well, then our fat cells do not actually handle the carbohydrates properly."

A recent study supports the correlation between an increase in stress and an increase in body weight.

Researchers compared the stress levels and weights of more than 2,500 men and women over age 54.

The findings showed high levels of cortisol, a hormone. Over time, higher cortisol levels can lead to high blood pressure, problems with sleep and lead to weight gain.

"As we get fatter, we get more insulin-resistant and it makes us retain sodium and it makes us actually crave more carbohydrates," Peters said.

But, there are ways to reduce your stress. Peters said sometimes herbal supplements can help.

Loma Linda University Medical Center is launching a study to see how well the Ashwaganda root supplement can lower cortisol levels, improve sleep and help with weight loss.

"This Ashwagandha has been used in India for 3,000 years," Peters said. "It is a very valuable, an additional tool to learning how to relax."

He also recommends taking deep breathing breaks while at work. Standing up at your desk and taking time out to practice "mindfullness" can help, as well.

You can find out more about the clinical trial, by clicking here.
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