Stress, Via Inflammation, Is Linked to Metabolic Syndrome

Lifestyle and genetics, and a range of other factors within and outside our control, are known to contribute to development of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that add up to increased risk for serious health problems.

A new study has found that stress, through its propensity to drive up inflammation in the body, is also linked to metabolic syndrome — leading researchers to suggest that cheap and relatively easy stress-management techniques may be one way to help improve biological health outcomes.

The research was published recently in Brain, Behavior, & Immunity — Health.

Links between stress and biological health are established, but few previous studies had looked specifically at the involvement of inflammation in stress’s connection to metabolic syndrome.

People with metabolic syndrome are diagnosed with at least three of five factors that increase the risk for heart disease, diabetes and other health issues — excess belly fat, high blood pressure, low HDL (good) cholesterol, and high levels of fasting blood glucose and triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood.

The condition is also referred to as insulin resistance syndrome.

Using data from a sample of 648 participants (average age 52) in a national survey titled Midlife in the United States, first author Savana Jurgens built a statistical model to gauge how inflammation may fit into the relationship between stress and metabolic syndrome.

Information from respondents’ reported perceived stress, blood biomarkers for inflammation, and physical exam results indicating risk factors for metabolic syndrome was used for the analysis.

Inflammation composite scores were calculated using biomarkers that included the better-known IL-6 and C-reactive protein as well as E-selectin and ICAM-1, which help recruit white blood cells during inflammation, and fibrinogen, a protein essential to blood clot formation.

The statistical modeling showed that stress does indeed have a relationship with metabolic syndrome, and inflammation explained over half of that connection — 61.5%, to be exact.

Other factors include a range of behaviors including inactivity, unhealthy eating habits, smoking and poor sleep, as well as low socioeconomic status, advanced age and being female.

Future work will include a closer look at whether stress has a causal effect on metabolic syndrome and assessing stress management techniques that may be best for helping reduce inflammation.


Savana M. Jurgens, Sarah Prieto, Jasmeet P. Hayes. Inflammatory biomarkers link perceived stress with metabolic dysregulation. Brain, Behavior, & Immunity – Health, 2023; 34: 100696 DOI: 10.1016/j.bbih.2023.100696

Ohio State University. (2024, January 12). Stress, via inflammation, is linked to metabolic syndrome. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 17, 2024 from

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