AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Older adults with symptoms of depression appear more likely to gain abdominal fat, but not overall fat -- over a five-year period, Dutch researchers said.
Nicole Vogelzangs of VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam and colleagues studied 2,088 adults age 70-79 years. Participants were screened for depression at the beginning of the study and their overall and abdominal obesity was recorded then and again after five years.
At the beginning of the study, 4 percent of participants had depression.
The study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, found that after adjusting for sociodemographic and other characteristics associated with weight changes, depression was associated with an increase in sagittal diameter and visceral fat over five years.
"Such an association was not found for an increase in overall obesity and also appeared to be independent of changes in overall obesity, suggesting that depressive symptoms are rather specifically associated with fat gain in the visceral region," the study authors said in a statement.
Chronic stress and depression may activate certain brain areas and lead to increased levels of the hormone cortisol, which promotes the accumulation of visceral fat, Vogelzangs said. In addition, individuals with depression may have unhealthier lifestyles, including a poor diet, that could interact with other physiological factors to produce an increase in abdominal obesity.