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A recent study by researchers at the Umeå University in Sweden has found a connection between the stress hormone cortisol and obesity in patients with mental illness including bipolar disorder and depression. Low cortisol levels have been linked with obesity, a condition that leads to high blood levels of fat and metabolic syndrome as well as excess weight. Researchers determined that patients who had recurrent episodes of depression or bipolar disorder tended to have lower levels of cortisol, although extremely high levels of this stress hormone can also cause problems. The study results were published and can be found in the Journal of Affective Disorders. Both recurrent depression and bipolar disorder are life long conditions, and while there are treatments which can help with these disorders there are no cures.

According to Umeå University Department of Clinical Sciences Division of Psychiatry researcher Martin Maripuu the study examined the connection between patients with low levels of the stress hormone cortisol who also have a mental illness such as depression or bipolar disorder. These patients also struggle with obesity in many cases. Maripuu explained “These results provide clues to better understand the high prevalence of cardiovascular diseases in people with recurrent depressions or bipolar disorder. The results may in the future contribute to better preventative treatments of cardiovascular diseases in these disorders. The results show that cortisol regulation is linked to worsened physical health in people with bipolar disorder or recurrent depressions. However, further studies are needed in order to better understand these associations.”