Stress in Your Hair with a Link to Obesity?
Plenty of people feel stressed about their hair. But who knew that traces of stress in your hair are measurable. Well, a novel study published this month in Obesity suggests that scientists can do just that. Sarah Jackson and colleagues measured cortisol concentration in hair samples from 2,527 British men and women over four years. And they found a robust correlation between these cortisol levels, obesity, and the persistence of obesity over time.
Producing cortisol is one of the body’s key responses to stress.
The Value of Hair Cortisol Measures
In a companion commentary, Elisabeth F.C. van Rossum says measuring hair cortisol is innovative and promising. It provides a way to get a handle on long-term cortisol exposure. Measuring blood of saliva levels has not been good enough. That’s because levels in body fluids vary so much. They don’t provide a good view of how much cortisol a body produces over time. In your hair, it accumulates over time. It provides a longer view.
So we have a better measure of cortisol. But that means there’s more work to do. The next step is to explore the implications for understanding obesity. Is cortisol production a cause of obesity? Or is it a result? How are patients with more cortisol exposure different from others? Do they require different treatment strategies?
In the complex, chronic disease of obesity, new insights bring new questions and new opportunities for progress.
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March 1, 2017