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Young Girls from Troubled Families More Likely to Become Obese

Update Date: May 11, 2012 04:35 PM EDT

A recent study published in the May issue of Pediatrics states that young girls — between the age of 1 and 3— have a higher possibility of facing obesity by the time they are five years old, if they have a troubled home, than girls who belong to happy homes.

"Identifying modifiable mediators of these associations can better inform intervention and prevention efforts to curb childhood obesity," Shakira Suglia of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in New York City, and colleagues wrote in the study.

However, the same does not hold true for boys in the same age group facing the same problems. 

The study included looking through the data of over 1,600 children from troubled homes from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study database. Most of these children came from low-income or single-mother families. Mothers of these children were asked about six stressors and it was found that girls whose mothers reported being exposed to two or more of these stressors when they were between the age of one and three were obese at the age of five.

"For families who are experiencing all these stresses, obesity is one more thing and may not be as high a priority as other things," said Suglia. "Particularly for girls, when you're seeing these patients coming in as obese children at age 5, there is probably more going on than what they're eating and what their physical activity is. ... There are other things going on in the family environment that need to be addressed to improve the health of the child."

Christina Bethell, a professor in the pediatrics department at Oregon Health & Science University and director of the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative also states that there are many explanations for this stress-obesity connection.

"The connection between stress, health behaviors and obesity is profound and many say that to deal with obesity, first we have to deal with psychosocial issues and stress," said Bethell.

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