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Is stress linked to obesity in children?

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Childhood Obesity is a very serious problem that has become a global concern, today. A child is said to be obese if he has 20% excess of calculated ideal weight as per the age, sex and the height of the child. A recent research reveals that overweight or obese children are more likely to suffer from stress compared to their normal weight counterparts. The study reveals that a key stress hormone called cortisol is released higher in obese children, naturally, than in others.

Cortisol and obesity

When the human body experiences stress, the body produces the hormone cortisol. In case a person experiences frequent stress, the level of cortisol and other such stress hormones increases in the blood and over a period, it can cause severe effects on the body. In a recent study, the cortisol present in the scalp hair was measured, which reflected exposure over a prolonged period. It was proposed as a biomarker to measure stress. The results of the study were astounding. The results indicated that obese children have considerably high levels of cortisol, than others. In fact, obese children, as young as 8 years of age, showed very high levels of this stress hormone. Since, these results are deduced after analyzing the children's scalp, it can be confirmed that such high levels of cortisol persisted over a long period of time.

The study came to the above conclusion after analyzing the hair samples that were collected from 20 obese children and 20 normal children. In each group there were 15 girls and 5 boys in the age group of 8 to 12. The average cortisol levels in obese kids were found to be 25pg/mg as compared to 17pg/mg in kids with normal weights. These observations are deduced after studying the sample for over a month. Since, this study followed an observational approach; it needs more research to find the root cause of it. Also, it is not clearly understood or known if obese kids actually experience high level of stress or their bodies handle stress in a different manner. Once we have the answer to these key questions, it will go a long way in understanding childhood obesity and how it can be treated.

Is stress always bad?

One should understand that all types of stress aren't bad. Acute stress is good and can increase alertness and cognitive abilities of kids. On the other hand, chronic stress is the one that is bad for health. It is recognized as one of the causative agents of a number of health problems like heart issues, digestion issues, weight gain, etc.

Childhood obesity is quickly becoming a global concern with over 42 million obese children. The more shocking statistics is that of these 42 million obese kids, 35 million kids belong to developing countries. Obese children are more likely to fall ill, miss school, stay away from sports and lead a sedentary lifestyle. When they grow into adults they have a high risk of morbidity and disability. They also have an increased risk of asthma, diabetes, high level of cholesterol and lipids, cardiovascular diseases and other psychosocial risks.

How to deal with childhood obesity

Parents play an important role in helping their kids feel that they are in control of their own weight. Try your best to raise your child's self-esteem as much as possible and take every opportunity to do so.

Don't shy away from bringing up health and fitness topics with your child, but be sure to be sensitive so that your child does not decipher your views as insulting. Be direct, open and kind and avoid being harsh and judgmental.

¢ Be sensitive to your child's feelings and needs
¢ Talk to your child about how he or she feels and help them deal with their emotional not involving eating
¢ Utilize every opportunity to commend your child's efforts
¢ Help your child aim for positive goals

See also: http://www.doctortipster.com/10891-improper-diet-in-newborn-period-increases-risk-of-metabolic-mischief-and-obesity-rat-study-suggests.html

References

http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/10340798
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673602096782