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Curr Obes Rep. 2012 Mar;1(1):16-25.

Effects of Chronic Social Stress on Obesity.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, 2170 East Galbraith Road, E 212, Cincinnati, OH 45237, USA.


The prevalence of overweight and obesity has markedly increased during the past few decades. Stress has been suggested as one environmental factor that may contribute to the development of obesity. In this review, we discuss the role that exposure to chronic stress may play in the development of obesity, with particular attention to the effects of chronic psychosocial stress. Of particular importance is the effect that social stress has on dietary preference, food consumption, and regional distribution of adipose tissue. We present evidence from human and animal studies that links sympathetic nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis hyperactivity with visceral obesity, and that stress tends to alter the pattern of food consumption, and promotes craving of nutrient-dense "comfort foods." Lastly, we discuss the visible burrow system, a model of chronic social stress used in our laboratory to assess the effects of social subordination on behavioral and metabolic profile.

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