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How does teasing affect weight gain in children?

A new study assessed the consequences of teasing on weight gain in children.

Childhood obesity is a growing problem worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that by 2025, 70 million children across the globe will be obese. With the condition comes not only health implications, such as the increased risk of chronic diseases as they age, but social and emotional implications as well.

It is commonly believed that making fun of children with weight issues helps propel them to make lifestyle changes and lose weight, but a recent study found teasing may, in fact, have the opposite effect. Researchers at the National Institute of Health published an article in Pediatric Obesity explaining the pattern of weight gain in children who had been teased for their weight. Researchers provided questionnaires to 110 youth to assess their experiences with being teased and followed up with the youth every year for 15 years. Children who were teased gained 44 lbs on average, annually, while weight gain did not occur in children who were not teased

Researchers theorize this may be because teasing induces a stress response in which cortisol contributes to more weight gain or the shame felt by the youth induces more unhealthy behaviour. Further research should investigate effective ways to combat weight gain in already obese, or at-risk youth in order to improve overall well-being.

Written by Monica Naatey-Ahumah, BSc

References:

National Institutes of Health. (2019, May 30). Being teased about weight linked to more weight gain among children, NIH study suggests. [News release]. Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-05/nksn-bta052419.php

Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity. (2017, October 13). Facts and figures on childhood obesity. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/end-childhood-obesity/facts/en/

 

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