WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., Aug. 5 (UPI) -- Social stress may cause the body to deposit more fat in the abdominal cavity, increasing the harmful buildup of plaque in blood vessels, U.S. researchers say.
"Much of the excess fat in many people who are overweight is located in the abdomen, and that fat behaves differently than fat in other locations," principal investigator Carol A. Shively of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine says in a statement.
Obesity is directly related to lower socioeconomic status in Western societies, as is heart disease -- people who have fewer resources to buffer themselves from the stresses of life are more likely to experience such health problems, Shively says.
Shively and colleagues said female monkeys were fed a Western-style diet containing fat and cholesterol. The monkeys were housed in groups so they would naturally establish a pecking order from dominant to subordinate.
Subordinate monkeys are often the target of aggression and aren't included in group grooming sessions as often as dominant monkeys.
The study, published in the journal of the Obesity Society, found the socially stressed subordinate monkeys developed more fat in the viscera, or abdominal cavity.