• Mon, Dec 23 - 3:00 pm ET

Obese Children Have Higher Levels Of That Stress Hormone

childhood obesityA new study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism contains some pretty interesting insights into obesity in regards to stress and the stress hormone Cortisol.

Before we get to talking about science, here’s everything I know about the hormone cortisol:

  • Has to do with stress
  • Allegedly causes belly-fat
  • It shoots around the body as big yellow arrows
  • You can buy snake oil to minimize its affects on your figure

Sorry to be such an intellectual braggart, but I learned all of that because I never slept in High School and spent some of my nights watching infomercials for diet pills like the teenaged-undead. I used all of that vast knowledge to try to analyze and understand recent scientific findings that levels of cortisol are higher in obese children than non-obese children.

Researchers from the Erasmus MC-Sophia Children’s Hospital in the Netherlands took hair samples* from 20 obese children (fifteen girls, five boys) aged between 8 and 12-years-old and compared the levels of cortisol to hair samples from 20 counterparts with normal weights. Three of the obese children had metabolic syndrome, but all were free from chronic disease.

What the Netherlands’ scientists found was that the obese children in their study had “an average cortisol concentration of 25 pictograms for each milligram of scalp hair” compared to 17 pictograms per milligram of hair in children of normal weight. Dr. Erica van den Akker, M.D., Ph.D., one of the researchers on the case expressed surprise over their finding that even at 8-years-old children “already had elevated cortisol levels.”

Linking this back to my astounding and specific knowledge of cortisol, the leap to assuming obese kids gain or retain more weight due to stress is an easy one to make. It’s also easy to assume that obesity makes children targets to stress inducing bullying. But assumptions are useless. Since the research is so new, the implications of their findings are still unknown beyond the association between obesity and stress-hormone cortisol levels in children. Further research is needed to determine whether or not obese kids experience more stress or tolerate stress hormones differently than their thinner peers.

*Hair samples “are indicative of cortisol exposure over about a month.”

via Huffington Post/Image via Shutterstock

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