The secret to preventing and predicting obesity has been revealed by a team of Melbourne researchers, who believe stress and how we respond to it is the key factor to managing our weight.

The scientists from Monash University found that our response to cortisol, a natural chemical released in the body in times of stress, can determine how much we eat and how quickly we subsequently lose weight.

The study's leader, Dr Belinda Henry said that people with a high response to cortisol are more likely to eat more when stressed and struggle to shed the kilograms.

The study showed that it was 'low responders' who would adjust their eating habits and reduce their food consumption while plagued with stress, as well as increasing their physical activity.

'High responders', would instead continue with their regular eating habits and exercise would not have a great effect on their muscles, leading to rapid weight gain.

Dr Henry said that further research could help determine better and more effective treatments for obesity.

The study is also looking at the effects of useful stress relieving activities including mindfulness, meditation, yoga and exercise.