Stress, Magnesium Deficiency & Obesity

Stress, Magnesium Deficiency & Obesity - What's the Connection?
Stress, Magnesium Deficiency & Obesity – What’s the Connection?

The relationship between stress, magnesium deficiency and obesity is quite complex. To understand it, we need to look at the nature of 3 different types of stress, and how they affect us.

In simple terms, stress is the body-mind response to real or perceived events and situations in its surroundings. It can be caused both by what is perceived as “good” or “bad”. The “good” factors include what we find exciting, stimulating, highly pleasurable. For example, a jump from a plane with a parachute – it is a stressful activity, but in most cases exciting at the same time. The “bad” stressors are the ones which cause distress to the mind and body – for example, an attack from somebody, real or perceived.

Acute Stress

This is a short-lived type of stress. The body responds to it with a “fight or flight” strategy. This kind of response causes fast changes in the body, to ensure its survival. The release of adrenaline and other related hormones mobilises the body resources within a short period of time. The limb muscles contract, the heart starts pumping the blood a lot faster, blood flow to the limbs and major organs increases, to make sure that the body can either fight or flee.

This is a biological response which in dangerous situations saves lives. However, in many cases danger is perceived, rather than present, and a lot of people get acutely stressed over things which are non-life-threatening (e.g. road rage). Acute stress is accountable for most cases of cardiac arrest (heart attack) and can be very dangerous if there are long-term chronic problems present in the body.


The other type of acute stress involves pleasant activities and events – a birth of a child, moving home, doing something for fun and excitement (e.g. a ski jump). This stress is short-lived, but can still disrupt the body processes.

Symptoms of acute stress

  • A sudden rise in blood pressure
  • Muscle tension, cramps
  • Disruption of digestive processes
  • Increased risk of cardiac arrest
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Disruption of the endocrine system
  • Flaring up of chronic conditions
  • Long-term physical and psychological problems.

Repeated acute stress

This kind of stress involves repetition of stressful situations and events on a recurring basis. It also describes the mind’s perception of the environment as threatening and hostile, with the corresponding reaction. Like with acute stress, it can be real (e.g. a soldier or a civilian in a war zone), or perceived (a teenager seeing the world as a deeply hostile environment, with no way out). This is a more dangerous kind of stress since the body and mind balance get repeatedly disrupted, with hormones wrecking havoc with the body systems.

Common symptoms and consequences

  • Anxiety
  • Wearing down of all body systems
  • Build up of toxins in the body
  • Heart problems
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Stroke.

Chronic Stress

This is the most dangerous type of stress, since it destroys the body and nervous system consistently, over a long period of time. The most possible causes are financial hardship, relationship problems, a feeling of being stuck in the rut due to entrenched beliefs and inflexible mindset, long-term illness – of yourself or a family member, lack of help, loneliness, bullying, uninspiring environment – at home or at work.

The damage which long-term stress causes to the body is often devastating. People who are continually exposed to chronic stress are much more likely to suffer from poor health, which leads to a low life span.

Common symptoms and consequences of chronic stress

  • High cholesterol level in the blood, leading to clogged up and rigid arteries (atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis)
  • Over-eating, leading to obesity
  • Obesity caused by accumulation of toxins in the body
  • Type 2 diabetes due to insulin resistance from the cells
  • Inflammation of the joints (arthritis, rheumatism)
  • Blood pressure abnormalities
  • Chronic anxiety
  • Depression
  • Passive aggression
  • Sudden seemingly unexplained episodes of panic attack and acute anxiety
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Kidney disease
  • Psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema
  • Acne and other skin problems
  • Allergies
  • Stroke
  • Poor immunity
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Headaches, migraine
  • Depression
  • Alcoholism
  • Drug abuse
  • Other addictions
  • Cancer.

A relationship between stress & obesity

The relationship between stress and obesity has been established not only by observing human but animal behaviour as well. It is a well-known fact that while for most of us acute stress doesn’t invoke comfort eating, chronic stress does. Why is it happening, and what are the long-term consequences of chronic stress?

Here are conclusions of 2 scientific studies which explain what happens in the body as a result of chronic stress, and how it leads to obesity:

1. “The effects of adrenal corticosteroids on subsequent adrenocorticotropin secretion are complex. Acutely (within hours), glucocorticoids (GCs) directly inhibit further activity in the hypothalamo–pituitary–adrenal axis, but the chronic actions (across days) of these steroids on the brain are directly excitatory. Chronically high concentrations of GCs act in three ways that are functionally congruent. (i) GCs increase the expression of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) mRNA in the central nucleus of the amygdala, a critical node in the emotional brain.

CRF enables recruitment of a chronic stress-response network. (ii) GCs increase the salience of pleasurable or compulsive activities (ingesting sucrose, fat, and drugs, or wheel-running). This motivates ingestion of “comfort food.” (iii) GCs act systemically to increase abdominal fat depots. This allows an increased signal of abdominal energy stores to inhibit catecholamines in the brainstem and CRF expression in hypothalamic neurons regulating adrenocorticotropin.

Chronic stress, together with high GC concentrations, usually decreases body weight gain in rats; by contrast, in stressed or depressed humans chronic stress induces either increased comfort food intake and body weight gain or decreased intake and body weight loss. Comfort food ingestion that produces abdominal obesity, decreases CRF mRNA in the hypothalamus of rats.

Depressed people who overeat have decreased cerebrospinal CRF, catecholamine concentrations, and hypothalamo–pituitary–adrenal activity. We propose that people eat comfort food in an attempt to reduce the activity in the chronic stress-response network with its attendant anxiety. These mechanisms, determined in rats, may explain some of the epidemic of obesity occurring in our society.” Source

2. “Although stressors generally reduce the intake of boring but hea