Stress in obesity: cause or consequence?

Med Hypotheses. 2011 Jul;77(1):7-10. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2011.03.011. Epub 2011 Mar 27.


Obesity is a global public health challenge that increases the risk of various diseases including type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension and cancer, and will in the future cause further increases in the incidence of chronic disease. Understanding the mechanisms of obesity is critical if we are to prevent and treat this pandemic challenge. Diet and physical activity have traditionally been the major tasks in preventing and treating obesity. However, other mechanisms are now also being considered in the quest for knowledge and understanding of obesity, including the body's stress system and cortisol release. While it seems evident that stress is a cause of obesity, whether stress is also a consequence of obesity has up to now only briefly been discussed. The aim of this article is to elucidate how stress and obesity might be linked and discuss the cause/consequence relationship between the stress response and obesity. Our hypothesis is that stress and obesity interfere by positive feedback. This may be an important issue in both our understanding and coping of obesity.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*


  • Hydrocortisone