Psychosocial factors that have an influence on obesity come down to the three S's: stress, sleep, and social jetlag.
There are several pathways through which stress results in weight gain. One of these is the endocrine pathway. Owing to over activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, you get increased levels of cortisol, which results in weight gain, predominantly in the visceral area.
There is also a behavioural pathway; people who are stressed tend to eat more junk food, even though they aren't hungryâ€”a factor already well known in the study of obesity.
Studies have shown that in the past 50 years, we went from sleeping about 8.5 hours a night to sleeping only 7 or less. This happened at around the same time period as the obesity epidemic.
Studies show that "short sleep" (which means about 6 hours or less) has about 50% chance or higher of leading to obesity and weight gain. In addition to sleep quantity, sleep quality is also important. Disturbed sleep leads to disturbed energy balance via disruption of the endocrine factors involved in weight regulation, eg., ghrelin and leptin. As little as 30 minutes a day of sleep debt can have significant effects on obesity and insulin resistance, increasing obesity by 17% and insulin resistance by 39% for every 30 minutes of sleep debt on work days.
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