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C. Why Stress Causes Expanding Waistlines

Narrator: This is Science Today. When the body's under stress, there's a hormonal imbalance, which results in fat accumulation - specifically in the abdominal region. In fact, researcher Elissa Epel of the University of California, San Francisco says the abdomen is a magnet for stress hormones.

Epel: It's covered with receptors for stress hormones and what stress hormones do is activate types of enzymes that cause fat to be stored. So during a long bout of stress, it may appear that one is losing weight and they may lose weight in the rest of their body but they could actually be accumulating weight in their visceral cavity - accumulating fat.

Narrator: And while this knowledge may stress-out dieters, there's an evolutionary basis.

Epel: During times of stress, you need an instant source of energy, so during stress, the abdominal fat is able to turn into instant energy much more quickly than the rest of the body's fat.

Narrator: These days, the problem is there's too much abdominal fat. Whether that's due to overeating or too much stress, the best way to handle it is exercise. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.