Cortisol is one of the many hormones produced in your body which serve as chemical messengers.
While commonly referred to as the stress hormone due to its role in your body’s stress response, it has a number of other important functions.
Some people wonder if cortisol levels have an influence on body weight.
This article details the potential effect of cortisol on weight gain, including some ways to reduce its levels in your body.
What is cortisol and how does it affect your body?
Cortisol is a necessary hormone with important functions in your body, which include increasing blood sugar, reducing inflammation, suppressing the immune system, and aiding in nutrient metabolism.
Do cortisol levels affect weight?
Among the numerous factors influencing your body weight, hormone regulation is an important one.
While hormones such as cortisol are usually kept within a tight range by your body’s endocrine system, there are certain situations in which they can become low or elevated.
High levels may promote overeating
Small rises in cortisol levels in response to stress are normal and not likely to cause negative side effects.
Yet, in certain instances, cortisol levels may remain chronically elevated.
When cortisol levels remain elevated, the following side effects may occur (7Trusted Source):
- weight gain
- high blood pressure
- changes in mood
- flushed face
- thinning skin
- difficulty concentrating
- insulin resistance
When under chronic stress, it may be difficult to maintain healthful eating habits.
One study in 59 healthy women found an association between elevated cortisol levels and an increase in appetite, which could potentially promote weight gain (8Trusted Source).
In addition, another study found an association between a higher cortisol response and a higher amount of belly fat in a group of 172 men and women, suggesting that higher cortisol may lead to overeating (9Trusted Source).
That said, levels of stress and cortisol aren’t always directly related, thus more data is needed to establish a direct relationship (10Trusted Source).
Low levels may cause weight loss
Just as high cortisol levels may cause weight gain, low levels may cause weight loss in some instances.
The most notable symptoms of low cortisol include (13Trusted Source):
- decreased appetite and weight loss
- low blood sugar
- salt cravings
- nausea, vomiting, or abdominal pain
- muscle or bone pain
While high cortisol levels may seem more common, it’s important to be aware of the effects of low cortisol as well.