Scientists have shown in the past that psychological stress is linked to weight gain and fat storage — especially added fat around the waistline, where it raises the risk of heart disease. Researchers at UCSF are set to explore whether a stress-reduction program could reverse that fat storage. They seek 50 “apple-shaped,” overweight women to help them find out.
Jennifer Daubenmier, PhD, and Elissa Epel, PhD, at the UCSF Center for Obesity Assessment, Study, and Treatment (COAST) are launching a pilot study to examine whether mindfulness-based stress-reduction techniques can help women start to lose belly fat – and, over the long run, help them to lose weight and keep it off. “To my knowledge, this is the first controlled study of meditation-based stress reduction for weight management in healthy overweight women,” says Daubenmier, a UCSF COAST postdoctoral fellow.
The researchers will use ultrasound to measure how much fat is stored around participants’ waistlines and around their organs, and will track other markers of poor health associated with being overweight, including the level of glucose control, a warning of future diabetes. They also will look at hormones that indicate stress levels and may serve as markers of physiological dependence on comfort foods.