On top of eating a diet high in saturated fats and cholesterol, social stress may cause the body to develop and store more abdominal fat, which is a precursor to heart disease, according to researchers with Wake Forest University School of Medicine.
Abdominal fat is believed to behave differently than fat deposits in other areas of the body, and is believed to speed up harmful plaque build-up in arteries, paving the way for fatal heart disease.
The researchers said that socioeconomic status is directly related to obesity in the western world, and so is heart disease. They said that poorer people have fewer resources available to them to eat healthier diets and prevent obesity.
By studying monkeys who were fed a western diet high in fat and cholesterol and that were housed in groups that fostered the natural establishment of pecking orders, the researchers observed that subordinate monkeys were often the target of aggression and were left out of grooming sessions.
These animals produced stress hormones that led to an increased development of abdominal fat. In female monkeys, this caused their ovaries to produce fewer hormones that typically protect against heart disease in women.
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