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Researchers Tied Parental Stress to Higher BMIs in Children

Update Date: Dec 06, 2013 01:43 PM EST

Childhood obesity is a growing epidemic that needs to be stopped due to the negative effects obesity has on physical and mental health. Since obese children are more likely to become morbidly obese adults, finding the causes of childhood obesity and preventing them are important steps in the fight against obesity. In a new study conducted by researchers from St. Michael's Hospital, they reported that parental stress is tied to higher body mass indexes (BMI) in their children.

"Childhood is a time when we develop inter-connected habits related to how we deal with stress, how we eat and how active we are," Dr. Ketan Shankardass, a social epidemiologist with the hospital's Center for Research on Inner City Health, said reported by Medical Xpress. "It's a time when we might be doing irreversible damage or damage that is very hard to change later."

For the study, the researchers analyzed data on 4,078 children from the Children's Health Study, which was a prospective cohort study conducted in southern California. The researchers focused on the start of the study. The children were between the ages of five and 10 with 90 percent of them falling between 5.5 and 7.5-years-old. The children's BMI levels were measured each year and the researchers assessed the parents' stress levels with a questionnaire focused on how much control they felt in situations within the past month.

The researchers discovered that children with parents who had higher levels of stress tended to have higher BMI levels. These children's BMI levels were around two percent greater than the levels of children without highly stressed parents. The researchers also found that children with parents dealing with more stress gained weight at a seven percent higher rate than the children with parents of low stress levels did. Although the researchers could not determine if the relationship is a cause and effect one, the researchers reasoned that parents should look into ways of managing stress better. Not only would it help their children's waistlines, it could also benefit them.

The study was published in Pediatric Obesity.

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