Young women who have inconsistent access to food in childhood and whose parents are excessively disciplinary are more likely to become overweight or obese, according to a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. This correlation was present only in young women, not young men.
Public health organizations have deemed obesity a national public health crisis. According to the United States National Institutes of Health, more than 2 in 3 adults are medically classified as overweight or obese. Obesity increases the risk of a wide array of medical issues, including diabetes, endocrine system dysfunction, joint problems, pregnancy complications, and cardiovascular health issues.
Studying Obesity Risk in Adolescents
For the study, researchers pulled data from the Iowa Youth and Families Project. This longitudinal study of 451 teenagers and their families began in the Midwest in 1989. Participants were 13 years old at the study’s inception.
Parents and adolescents self-reported their food insecurity and behavior, and cameras were set up in homes to record interactions between family members. Ten years later, when participants were 23, researchers weighed them to assess for obesity.
The risk of obesity was higher in women whose parents used harsh disciplinary tactics, particularly when the women had inadequate access to healthy food.
The Role of Stress in Obesitystress, the study’s authors say. The study did not directly assess the role of stress or measure endocrine functioning in participants, but food deprivation and other stressors can increase cortisol production, altering the endocrine system and leading to more weight gain.
Previous studies have linked stress to weight gain and metabolic dysfunction. For example, one 2015 study found negative body image can increase the risk of obesity. Another found negative comments from loved ones about weight can promote weight gain.
- Harsh parenting, food insecurity predicts obesity for young women. (2016, June 21). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160621115856.htm
- Lohman, B. J., Gillette, M. T., & Neppl, T. K. (2016). Harsh parenting and food insecurity in adolescence: The association with emerging adult obesity. Journal of Adolescent Health, 59(1), 123-127. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2016.03.024
- Overweight and obesity statistics. (2012, October). Retrieved from http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/Pages/overweight-obesity-statistics.aspx
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