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Study links stress to metabolic syndrome, highlights inflammation’s role

Lifestyle and genetics, and a variety of other aspects inside and out of doors our control, are known to contribute to the event of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that add as much as increased risk for serious health problems.

A brand new study has found that stress, through its propensity to drive up inflammation within the body, can also be linked to metabolic syndrome – leading researchers to suggest that low-cost and comparatively easy stress-management techniques could also be one option to help improve biological health outcomes.

Study: Inflammatory biomarkers link perceived stress with metabolic dysregulation. Image Credit: masamasa3 / Shutterstock

“We were specifically examining people in midlife – a time that’s critical to find out those that will experience accelerated aging. Stress is a crucial contributor to several negative health outcomes as we age,” said senior writer Jasmeet Hayes, associate professor of psychology at The Ohio State University.

“There are numerous variables that influence metabolic syndrome, some we will not modify, but others that we are able to. Everybody experiences stress,” Hayes said. “And stress management is one modifiable factor that is cost-effective in addition to something people can do of their each day lives without having to get medical professionals involved.”

The research was published recently in Brain, Behavior, & Immunity – Health.

Links between stress and biological health are established, but few previous studies have examined the involvement of inflammation in stress’s connection to metabolic syndrome.

Individuals with metabolic syndrome are diagnosed with a minimum of three of 5 aspects that increase the danger for heart disease, diabetes, and other health issues – excess belly fat, hypertension, low HDL (good) cholesterol, and high levels of fasting blood glucose and triglycerides, a form of fat within the blood. The condition can also be known as insulin resistance syndrome.

Using data from a sample of 648 participants (average age 52) in a national survey titled Midlife in america, first writer Savana Jurgens built a statistical model to gauge how inflammation may fit into the connection between stress and metabolic syndrome. Information from respondents’ reported perceived stress, blood biomarkers for inflammation, and physical exam results indicating risk aspects for metabolic syndrome were used for the evaluation.

“There’s not much research that has checked out all three variables at one time,” said Jurgens, a psychology graduate student in Hayes’ lab. “There’s a whole lot of work that implies stress is related to inflammation, inflammation is related to metabolic syndrome, and stress is related to metabolic syndrome. But putting all those pieces together is rare.”

Inflammation composite scores were calculated using biomarkers that included the better-known IL-6 and C-reactive protein in addition to E-selectin and ICAM-1, which help recruit white blood cells during inflammation, and fibrinogen, a protein essential to blood clot formation.

The statistical modeling showed that stress does indeed have a relationship with metabolic syndrome, and inflammation explained over half of that connection – 61.5%, to be exact.

“There’s a small effect of perceived stress on metabolic syndrome, but inflammation explained a big proportion of that,” Jurgens said.

The outcomes made sense – stress is just one in every of many aspects that may launch health markers right into a state of disarray. Other aspects include a variety of behaviors, including inactivity, unhealthy eating habits, smoking, and poor sleep, in addition to low socioeconomic status, advanced age, and being female.

But considering that an estimated 1 in 3 American adults has metabolic syndrome, knowing how one can lower risk or prevent it altogether is very important, Hayes said. The findings also add to evidence that stress and its connection to inflammation can significantly impact biological health normally.

“People consider stress as mental health, that it’s all psychological. It shouldn’t be. There are real physical effects to having chronic stress,” Hayes said. “It could possibly be inflammation, it could possibly be metabolic syndrome, or plenty of things. That is one other reminder of that.”

Future work will include a better have a look at whether stress has a causal effect on metabolic syndrome and assessing stress management techniques which may be best for helping reduce inflammation.

This research was supported by the National Institute on Aging and Ohio State’s Discovery Themes Chronic Brain Injury Program, where Hayes is an investigator. Co-author Sarah Prieto of Ohio State also contributed to the study.


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