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Childhood Risk Exposure Tied to Weight Gain in Adolescence

Last Updated: December 05, 2011.

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.

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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