How Long Term Pandemic Stress, and Brain Changes Equals Weight Gain

Photo courtesy of Very Well Mind.
How Long Term Pandemic Stress, and Brain Changes Equals Weight Gain. In a study published in Molecular Psychiatry, researchers found that chronic stress results in long-term changes in the brain.3 These changes, they suggest, might help explain why those who experience chronic stress are also more prone to mood and anxiety disorders later on in life. Photo published in ‘Very Well Mind.’

As covered in the U.K.’s Daily Mail

How Long Term Pandemic Stress, and Brain Changes Equals Weight Gain

August 30, 2021– Human brains may not be wired for long term stress. On his most recent podcast, well known neurologist and founder of the Houston Healthcare Initiative, Dr. Steven Goldstein, discussed the biological reasons and brain chemistry changes that in part led to the weight gain so many experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown and how long term pandemic stress and brain changes equals weight gain

The Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast can be heard on : Apple Podcasts, Audacy, iHeartRadio, ListenNotes, Spotify, Stitcher, Backtracks, PodbayFM, and SoundCloud. This and all other editions of the Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast can also be heard on

While individuals ultimately have responsibility for what they eat, drink and how often they exercise there are physiological reasons why so many Americans put-on weight during the lockdown.

Brain Chemistry and Weight Gain

When stressed, the brain releases chemicals that make speed and strength available for a short but very intense time. Adrenaline is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands, increasing rates of blood circulation, breathing, and carbohydrate metabolism, preparing muscles for exertion. But when released over long periods of time those same chemicals demand a lot more brain fuel which causes individuals to eat more and more.

Automatic Brain Chemicals

There are other neurotransmitters like: serotonin, dopamine, and melatonin.

Melatonin in the body lowers at the time of the flight or fight response. Serotonin regulates emotions, appetite, and digestion. Low levels of serotonin increase anxiety and can change a person’s eating habits. Dopamine – another feel-good neurotransmitter – regulates goal-oriented motivation. Dwindling levels of dopamine can translate into lower motivation to exercise, maintain a healthy lifestyle or perform daily tasks. When people are under stress, they also produce less of the sleep hormone melatonin, leading to trouble sleeping.

The Worst and Most Preventable Co-Morbidity

The pandemic lockdown made the existing epidemic of obesity much worse. The American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America” poll, conducted in late February 2021, found that 42 percent of people surveyed reported they were heavier than the previous year. People in a separate survey reportedly gained an average of 29 pounds during the pandemic, with 10 percent gaining more than 50.

How Obesity Makes Covid-19 Worse

  • The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) states that Obesity is linked to impaired immune function.
  • Obesity decreases lung capacity and reserve and can make ventilation more difficult.
  • A study of COVID-19 cases suggests that risks of hospitalization, intensive care unit admission, invasive mechanical ventilation, and death are higher with increasing BMI.
    • The increased risk for hospitalization or death was particularly pronounced in those under age 65. 
  • More than 900,000 adult COVID-19 hospitalizations occurred in the United States between the beginning of the pandemic and November 18, 2020.
  • Models estimate that 271,800 (30.2%) of these hospitalizations were attributed to obesity.

In a time when many things are beyond the control of American citizens, eating more vegetables, fruit, and lean meat in place of less nutritious options is something that can be controlled.

About The Houston Healthcare Initiative

The Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast with Dr. Steven Goldstein is an information vehicle for people who want to know all medical options for themselves and are interested in reforming the healthcare industry. To learn more about the Houston Healthcare Initiative please visit