In primates, abdominal obesity is associated with low social status, the metabolic syndrome, and increased risk of morbidity and mortality due to depression and cardiovascular disease. Data from studies of monkeys suggest that social stress may be an underlying cause. We hypothesize that the stress of social subordination or social instability causes increased sympathetic nervous and HPA function. The chronic stimulation of these two systems leads to increased blood pressure and heart rate, and imbalances in sex steroid production which result in injury to the artery wall, and deposition of fat in the viscera. Visceral fat depots in turn exacerbate the metabolic effects of stress. Some of these physiological stress responses affect the function of the brain, resulting in depression.
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