Childhood Risk Exposure Tied to Weight Gain in Adolescence

Reduced self-regulatory capacity, seen in children exposed to risks, mainly accounts for weight gain

MONDAY, Dec. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Early childhood cumulative risk exposure to sociodemographic, physical, and psychosocial stressors is associated with weight gain in adolescence, and these gains are mainly accounted for by deteriorated self-regulatory abilities in children exposed to risks, according to a study published online Dec. 5 in Pediatrics.

Gary W. Evans, Ph.D., from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and colleagues investigated the association of early childhood risk exposures with subsequent weight gain during adolescence, and evaluated self-regulatory behavior as an underlying mechanism for the risk-obesity link. A total of 244 9-year-olds were assessed for cumulative risk exposure to nine sociodemographic, physical, and psychosocial risk factors. Body mass index (BMI) was calculated at baseline and after four years. Self-regulatory behavior was assessed in children by their ability to delay gratification at baseline. The mediational model (Cumulative risk → Self-regulation → BMI) was evaluated over a four-year period using path analyses.

The investigators found that, irrespective of the initial BMI, exposure to a greater accumulation of multiple risk factors at baseline was associated with larger gains in adiposity over the subsequent four years. Deteriorated self-regulatory ability among children exposed to more cumulative risks largely accounted for the gains in BMI during early adolescence.

"Deficiencies in self-regulation in response to chronic stress appears to be an important agent in the obesity epidemic," the authors write.

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