DNA, Stress, and Unwanted Weight: How to Connect the Dots

Interesting insights into how your genes may influence your relationship with stress and weight

You don't need me to tell you that stress is a normal part of life. Everyone feels it, no matter how relaxed they may appear to be... Although you also don't need me to tell you that some people do indeed feel it more than others! I'm feeling a bit stressed right now. How about you?

Believe it or not, stress is meant to be a good thing...

Stress is meant to be a survival mechanism. The hormone that causes feelings of stress gives your body a surge of energy in the face of danger by putting your adrenal glands to work. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that are meant to to prevent damage to your nerves and tissues.

However, one more thing you don't need me to tell you is that too much stress is a bad thing. On top of getting in the way of your happiness, the stress hormone can cause insulin resistance when it's too active for too long. Insulin resistance is bad news for your blood sugar levels. To make matters worse, the stress hormone can also increase your appetite and cause you to "stress eat" junk food. 

What causes stress?

Work, finances, romance (or lack thereof), health problems, family issues, bad drivers, holidays, sports, the news, natural disasters, imminent danger, etc... There are a number of causes of stress.

The real question is what causes the feeling of stress. The answer is your stress hormone: Cortisol.

Cortisol affects nearly every one of your complex organ systems:

  • Nervous system
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Musculoskeletal system
  • Reproductive system
  • Respiratory system
  • Integumentary system
  • Immune system

Cortisol and stress are also linked to weight gain. People who are overweight tend to have higher levels of cortisol in their bodies and higher amounts of abdominal fat. This is a correlation with plenty of exceptions -- not everyone who is overweight has high cortisol levels and not everyone with high cortisol levels is overweight. However, the trend is still apparent in many scientific studies.

That's not all though... Chronically high levels of cortisol can also lead to:

  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • High blood pressure
  • Inability to focus
  • Compromised immune system
  • Skin rashes and similar issues
  • Decreased sex drive

Believe it or not, there are similar complications that may arise from not having enough cortisol in your system.

So where does my DNA fit into all this?

Your DNA contains your DGKH gene that encodes a member of the diacylglycerol kinase enzyme family. These enzymes are involved in regulating the cellular concentration of molecules like lipids.

Variations on your DGKH gene influence the amount of cortisol in your body.

Depending on your variation, you may have:

  • Likely higher levels of cortisol, resulting in an increased appetite and a desire to eat more along with unintentional weight gain
  • Likely standard levels of cortisol, resulting in an easier ability to avoid "stress eating" and its unintended consequences
  • Likely moderate levels of cortisol, which is somewhere in between

Use Your DNA to Explore Your Cortisol Levels

If you're a CRI Genetics customer, you can access your Cortisol Levels Report in your CRI Genetics account right now and find out how your DNA influences your stress and weight.

Not a CRI Genetics customer yet? Go check out any current promotions and find out how you can get the Cortisol Levels Report (and many more).