Anxiety Gene May Cause Obesity

Many people turn to food for comfort when they are feeling stressed or anxious. Researchers of a new study believe they have discovered a reason that people do this – a genetic component to overeating.

Researchers at the Weizmann Institute in Israel discovered what they call an “anxiety gene.” When activated, the gene can cause stress and increase a person’s craving for foods that are higher in fat and sugar.

“We showed that the actions of a single gene in just one part of the brain can have profound effects on the metabolism of the whole body,” said Alon Chen, a neuroendocrinologist at the Weizmann Institute in a May 6 article on “In essence, stress may be turning us fat.”

With long days at work, families to support and finances to consider, stress is familiar to most people in today’s hectic society. Higher levels of stress can lead to an increased risk of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as obesity. The discovery of the anxiety gene by researchers may lead to improved ways to manage stress and prevent stress-related diseases.

Ways to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

In the meantime, it is important for people overwhelmed by their daily activities to do what they can to reduce the amount of stress and anxiety in their lives. Here are some ways to do that:

Learn to Say No. Between demands at work, at home and in your social life, there may be little time left for you during your day. It may not be easy to say no to people you care about, but it may be the best thing you can do to reduce stress and anxiety. Too much on your plate can raise your levels of anxiety and stress, leaving you feeling too tired to do everything you said you would.

Take Time for Yourself. Find some time during the day to be by yourself to regroup. Even if that’s sitting in your car during your evening commute home or getting up a few minutes before your family does in the morning, any quiet, alone time can help you feel calmer.

Make Relaxation a Priority. It may be difficult for you to quiet your mind and make time in your schedule, but turn off your electronics, shut the door and do something that makes you feel relaxed. Journal, listen to music, meditate or do a crossword puzzle. Find what it is that leaves you feeling calm and do it as often as possible.

Eat Healthy Foods and Stay Active. Anxiety and stress can lead to a decrease in exercise and poor eating choices. But physical activity and a healthy diet can help you to better manage and reduce levels of stress and anxiety. So make some type of daily activity a priority and stock your refrigerator full of healthy fruits, vegetables and grains.

If your levels of anxiety and stress have become unmanageable and are interfering with your daily life, it may be necessary to seek professional treatment for anxiety.