Chronic Stress and Impulsive Risk-Taking Predict Increases in Visceral Fat over 18 Months

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2018 May;26(5):869-876. doi: 10.1002/oby.22150. Epub 2018 Mar 22.


Objective: The aim of this study was to examine whether baseline chronic stress and impulsive risk-taking synergistically predict changes in visceral fat among healthy mothers in an observational, longitudinal, 18-month study.

Methods: A prospective cohort of 113 adult women (age, mean ± SD: 42.83 ± 4.70; BMI, mean ± SD: 24.86 ± 4.32; 74%, n = 84 white) completed assessments at baseline and 18-month follow-up. Chronically stressed mothers caring for a child with an autism spectrum disorder ("caregivers"; n = 72 participants) were compared with lower stress mothers caring for a neurotypical child ("controls"; n = 41). This study objectively assessed impulsive risk-taking by using the Behavioral Analog Risk Task at baseline and assessed visceral fat at baseline and 18-month follow-up by using bioelectrical impedance (ViScan; Tanita Corporation, Tokyo, Japan).

Results: The interaction of baseline chronic caregiving stress and impulsive risk-taking predicted an 18-month change in visceral fat, such that greater impulsive risk-taking was associated with greater 18-month increases in visceral fat among caregivers (ß = 0.423; P = 0.005) but not among controls (ß = -0.030; P = 0.802), both in unadjusted models and after accounting for covariates. Neither chronic stress nor impulsive risk-taking independently predicted 18-month changes in visceral fat.

Conclusions: The combination of high chronic stress and high impulsive risk-taking may increase risk for visceral fat gain over time and therefore may be an important intervention target in obesity prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / physiology*
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / physiopathology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk-Taking
  • Stress, Physiological / physiology*
  • Young Adult