Stress & obesity biologically linked

It seems like a no brainer to assume that there is a biological link between stress & obesity, but until recently there has not been any concrete scientific research to back up those thoughts.

Perhaps you know from personal experience, from observing friends and family, or from the media, but it has long been suspected that being stressed or strained can lead to over eating, and recently a team of researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (headed by Professor Hermona Soreq from the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences and the Department of Biological Chemistry at the Faculty of Mathematics and Sciences) have finally uncovered the link between the two.

Now for the complicated bit: at a molecular level, a type of microRNA has been revealed that influences inflammation in the brain and the gut. When we are in stressful situations this inflammatory response is generated as well as the development of processes that lead to metabolic syndrome, which can include obesity and high blood pressure. MicroRNA is a relatively new finding itself, only being discovered in the 1990s, it was originally considered “junk DNA” before scientists found that it plays an important role in regulating protein production. First published in the journal Trends in Molecular Medicine, these findings allow for new possibilities for both detecting and treating anxiety and obesity, which could have a huge impact on how both obesity and anxiety are treated.

In relation to metabolic disorders like obesity and diabetes, and anxiety disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and phobias, these new findings pave the way for groundbreaking diagnoses and treatments, as DNA-based drugs will be able to manipulate these microRNAs.

Since these discoveries are so new, only time will tell how this impacts the health and fitness landscape, as well as the world of science, but no matter what, the more we know, and the better our understanding of our own bodies, the closer we are to curing or preventing obesity and anxiety based disorders altogether.

Person with OCD cleaning th carpet

How to help someone who is suffering from OCD

Over 1% of the UK’s population suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, and the impulses, thoughts and obsessions associated with the disorder can often end up taking over the sufferer’s entire life. So what can you do for someone who has OCD or OCD-like symptoms? Follow our top tips below to help your friend or family member manage or even overcome their OCD.

 Educate yourself
Whether your friend or family member has been recently diagnosed, or is a long-term sufferer of this disorder, it can be extremely helpful to actively do some research around OCD and its symptoms. If you are particularly close to the person, and they would like to extra support, it can be beneficial to set up an appointment with their GP to discuss the specifics or their disorder so you have a greater understanding of how you can help.

 Be understanding
It can be frustrating when your friend or family member is continually late because they’ve had to go back and check that the door is locked fifty times, but imagine just how frustrating that is for them. The more you can try and put yourself into their position, the easier it is to empathise with their situation. It’s important to remember that the compulsions are symptoms and not weaknesses.

 Communication is key
As with all psychological disorders it’s vital that you communicate with your friend or family member honestly, whether it’s discussing how the OCD makes you both feel, or even working out strategies for how to cope with the symptoms, acknowledging the disorder is the first step in managing it.

 Don’t play along
It might seem extremely difficult, but playing along and helping the sufferer perform their rituals is actually very damaging. By encouraging the rituals you are reinforcing the behaviour, making it a lot harder for them to break the cycle and escape the disorder.

 Remain calm
Although it isn’t a good idea to play along with someone who is suffering symptoms of OCD, it also isn’t ideal to get annoyed, or angry when the symptoms appear. Try to stay calm, don’t scold, and never tell the sufferer not to perform their rituals.

It isn’t all serious
No matter how difficult it is for both the sufferer and those who know them, it’s often helpful not to get too bogged down in the drudgery of this disorder, and remember that learning to manage or even overcome OCD is a slow and arduous process. Try and find the humour in situations when you can, it’s true when they say that laughter is the best medicine.

 Ask a professional
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a treatable disorder, and one that can be eased and even cured over time. Your friend or family member doesn’t have to go through their struggle alone, so why not offer to arrange a therapy session with a trained professional who can provide some real and effective help.

Living with OCD can be a great burden, and often, just being their for your friend or family member is enough to help them deal with the stresses of the disorder, but by going the extra mile, educating yourself and trying to help manage or ease the symptoms, you could make all the difference in their daily lives.

Girl depressed at university

Coping with anxiety and depression at university.

Anxiety and depression are feelings that many of us experience at some point or other throughout our lives as the older we get the more responsibilities we are burdened with. For many young adults, moving away from home and going to university will also mean taking full responsibility for their lives for the first time. This can be a traumatic and often isolating experience but for someone already suffering from anxiety or depression it can be much worse. Here are some ways to cope with anxiety and depression while at university.

Think positive
Try and adopt a positive viewpoint. Whatever trouble you are in it’s not new. Nobody gets stuck in life and there is always a solution to the problems you face. Be patient and focus on all the good things in your life. Eventually you will settle into your new surroundings and when you do you will find it so much easier to process and deal with any situation you may find yourself in.

Take control of your life
Sometime we get depressed because we just can’t take control of our own lives. There may be things that we want to do, that we know we should do, but we have lost our motivation or incentive to do anything about it. We start managing our time badly and eventually become overwhelmed by the number of issues that need our attention. For some people this can be cue to pull away from society, friends and family and retreat into an anxiety fuelled depression. In this situation, having a set routine that you stick to no matter what can be very helpful. Increase your efforts and don’t worry if the progress is slow. It’s not a race and if you take things in bite size chunks you will slowly but surely get on top of it.

Express your feelings
Whatever your condition is its very important to express your feelings to those closest to you. There is a direct correlation between severe depression and a person’s ability to talk openly to friends and family. Try really hard to stop yourself from falling into this pattern. You don’t have to be sharing your problems with the whole world but a problem shared really is a problem halved and if you can confide in a few close friends or family members it will make you feel so much better.

Have a good circle of friends
Surround yourself with good people and they will pick you up when you are feeling down. And remember, it’s quality not quantity that counts. A few close and trusted friends is worth so much more than a huge, extended network of people that you hardly know.

Get some sleep
Not getting enough sleep can go hand in hand with depression. Trying to cope with problems can be challenging enough but when you are physically and mentally exhausted it can feel impossible. Try to establish a good routine by avoiding alcohol and stimulants such as tea and coffee in the evening and by making time to incorporate relaxing activities such as having a bath or reading a good book.