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Childhood Abuse Could Lead to Adult Obesity

Update Date: May 22, 2013 11:45 AM EDT

Previous research has tied childhood maltreatment to several personality changes in adulthood. Based from other studies, victims of child abuse tend to have antisocial personalities as well as anxiety issues. Within the United Kingdom alone, nearly one in every five child under 18-years-old has experienced some form of childhood abuse. In a new study, researchers found another possible consequence of severe childhood maltreatment. The researchers from King's College, London in the United Kingdom concluded that children of abuse tended to be more vulnerable to adult obesity than children who were not abused.

"We found that being maltreated as a child significantly increased the risk of obesity in adult life. Prevention of child maltreatment remains paramount and our findings highlight the serious long-term health effects of these experiences," said lead author, Dr Andrea Danese, child and adolescent psychiatrist from King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry.

The researchers looked at 41 global studies with data compiled from 190,285 people. Based from the statistics and computations, the researchers concluded that children who suffered from severe mistreatment had a 36 percent increased chance of becoming an obese adult. Severe mistreatment includes physical and sexual abuse, emotional abuse or neglect. These findings confirmed previous animal studied that discovered a link between life stresses, often associated with abuse, and an increase chance of obesity.

"If the association is causal as suggested by animal studies, childhood maltreatment could be seen as a potentially modifiable risk factor for obesity - a health concern affecting one third of the population and often resistant to interventions," Danese stated. "Additional research is needed to clarify if and how the effects of child maltreatment on obesity could be alleviated through interventions after maltreatment has occurred. Our next step will be to explore the mechanisms behind this link."

The researchers controlled for childhood and adult socioeconomic statuses, current smoking habits, alcohol use and level of physical activity. The researchers also stated that the children used in the study were not obese, and thus, they were not mistreated due to their weight.

The findings were published in Molecular Psychiatry

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