Researchers are finding that stress is a key factor in obesity, particularly childhood obesity — leading them to observe that social safety-net programs may be keeping families fed and healthy. (Hemera Technologies)
Obesity has generally been explained as the interaction of three factors: diet, exercise and genetics. Researchers, though, have begun to look at another element — particularly as it relates to childhood obesity — and their findings have implications for government-run social safety-net programs that the politicians wrangling over them likely never considered.
“What we see is that at least in clinical studies using rats, if you induce stress in a rat, it causes them to have high levels of cortisol, which then leads to have higher levels of obesity,” said Craig Gundersen, a professor of agricultural and consumer economics at the University of Illinois. “So we thought, well, maybe something similar is happening in humans — if people are under stress, they may be more likely to be overweight.”
“We don’t really understand the mechanism, but we do know that children in stressful situations are more likely to be obese,” he said. “The overwhelming determinant of whether or not somebody is obese is genetics. Study after study has shown that exercise and diet make a small difference, but the major factor is genetics. Nobody disputes that.
Author: Emily Badger,