Expat insurance customers trying to lose weight may wish to try and remove stressors from their life, following the publication of a new study.
Research undertaken by human biologist Bryniar Foss and sports scientist Sindre Dyrstad from Norway's University of Stavanger found people with high levels of cortisol – the stress hormone – appear to gain weight more easily than those who fall into normal ranges.
This suggests that a positive feedback loop could exist between this negative emotion and obesity.
Mr Foss claimed a lack of physical activity and poor eating habits cannot sufficiently explain the global rise in unhealthy weights, arguing stress could be another important contributing factor.
The World Health Organisation cites consuming foodstuffs containing elevated levels of salt, sugar and fat while engaging in little physical activity as the reason that people become obese or overweight.
Men and women with these conditions have a higher likelihood of suffering from a range of chronic illnesses, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, it noted.
Although this was once thought to be a problem that generally affected high-income nations, the group pointed out it is also "dramatically on the rise in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings".
Mr Foss and his research team looked into previous studies that revealed individuals who become fatter due to stress generally have noticeably higher cortisol levels.
He said getting fat can result in the body producing these responses, which could result in people gaining more weight.
Furthermore, the experts revealed dieting could also promote the production of cortisol, which might counteract any reduction in size caused by restrictive eating habits.
"Should our hypothesis turn out to be correct, it would mean that you'll have to break this stress pattern if you want to halt the weight increase," Mr Foss asserted.
"When you go up in weight, your body also comes under stress. That probably has a self-reinforcing effect – so you get even fatter," he explained.