Abuse in Childhood Linked to Obesity in Adulthood

Maltreatment of young people in childhood raises their risk of obesity in adulthood. UK research has revealed that preventing that maltreatment in childhood could reduce the chance of obesity in adulthood.

The study was carried out by King’s College London, analysing the data from more than 190,000 individuals who had participated in 41 worldwide studies.

The study’s findings demonstrated that around 1 in 5 young people under the age of 18 in the UK suffer from severe maltreatment such as physical, emotional and sexual abuse, or neglect. Those young people are already known to face a risk of suffering long-term damage to their mental health and now the King’s College research has concluded that their physical health may also be damaged.

Early life stress has been shown to increase the risk of obesity in animals and now the UK study appears to confirm that this is also the case in humans, having eliminated other factors that might contribute to obesity such as socio-economic status, smoking and alcohol intake, and physical activity.

The meta-analysis also concluded that depression in people who were badly treated as a child may also be a contributory factor to obesity. The study said that more research should be conducted into potential biological links in those who suffered childhood maltreatment and their later obesity, such as early life stress on the developing brain and its effect on eating or hormones linked to appetite or on the immune system.

The most important thing, according to the study’s conclusion, is that maltreatment of children and young people be prevented from taking place in the first place so that those serious long-term health effects can be mitigated.


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