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New research has uncovered how chronic stress can suppress your metabolism.

New research has uncovered how chronic stress can suppress your metabolism.

According to a new study, the first piece of advice for weight loss should be "relax." Researchers from the University of Florida Health in collaboration with the Second Hospital of Shandong University in China discovered how chronic stress affects the production of betatrophin, a protein that inhibits fat metabolism and impedes weight loss efforts.

The study, published in the January 2016 issue of the journal BBA Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids, tested the impact of stress on betatrophin production in mice, finding that environmental and metabolic stress significantly slowed normal fat-burning processes.

Though the researchers have yet to perform a clinical trial on humans, Li-Jun Yang, a professor and lead investigator in the UF College of Medicine's department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine, said in a news release that the findings provide important implications for human beings as well. It helps scientists better understand the relationship between stress, betatrophin and fat metabolism.

Prior to these findings, betatrophin was making headlines when a 2013 Harvard University study suggested that the protein could increase the number of insulin-producing beta cells in individuals with diabetes. Later research debunked that theory, though, so the UF research paints a clearer picture of what kind of effect betatrophin actually has on the human body.

The researchers are confident that their findings have uncovered an important link between stress and the body's ability to burn fat, citing betatrophin's influence on adipose triglyceride lipase, an enzyme that breaks down stored fat. At the very least, it gives people more reason to reduce stress in their lives. While short-term stress can help in certain situations, chronic stress can be detrimental to your overall well-being.

"Stress causes you to accumulate more fat, or at least slows down fat metabolism," said Yang. "This is yet another reason why it's best to resolve stressful situations and to pursue a balanced life." 

One simple way to begin reducing stress is by getting adequate sleep, according to the American Psychological Association. The association's website recommends getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night by cutting back on caffeine, eliminating technological distractions and following a consistent bedtime schedule. Engaging in relaxing activities like yoga can also help reduce stress and boost your immune system.

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