When stress turns deadly

Stress is bad. Obesity is even worse. Put the two together, and you can reach a whole new level of poor health -- because when combined, stress and obesity practically take on superpowers.

And a villain with superpowers is never good news.

Both stress and obesity are known to increase levels of inflammation throughout the body, and inflammation is a risk factor for chronic disease.

And when an obese person battles stress, the inflammation levels fly off the charts -- with new research showing how one particular marker for inflammation skyrockets.

It's called interleukin-6, and high levels of it are known to increase the risk of serious and even deadly conditions such as heart disease. In the new study, both obese people and normal-weight people were subjected to stress over two days in the form of phony job interviews and math exercises.

On the first day, both the normal-weight folks and the obese saw similar jumps in their IL-6 levels.

But on the second day, all bets were off. The obese people saw their IL-6 levels double when compared to the changes on the first day -- and the bigger the BMI, the bigger the change in IL-6 levels.

The normal-weight folks, on the other hand, had pretty much the same results as they did on the first day, according to the study in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

Along with heart disease, IL-6 has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, diabetes, hardened arteries, fatty liver disease and more -- all conditions more common among the obese in the first place, which is why it's essential to get it under control.

But it's not as easy as watching your stress levels.

Yes, you can control stress with drug-free options such as herbal remedies, homeopathic medicine and prayer no matter how much you weigh. But since obesity can increase IL-6 levels even without stress, it's also critical to get your waistline under control now before it's too late.