Stressed children eat when they're not hungry, study shows

Research looks at relationships among weight, eating, stress level

Children with strong stress reactions tend to eat even if they're not hungry, increasing their chances of becoming overweight or obese, a new study shows.

Douglas A. Granger, director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Salivary Bioscience Research at Johns Hopkins, was among the co-authors of the study. His work deals with measuring stress responses using biomarkers in saliva. The study examined children age 5-9, looking at relationships among their weight, eating, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Granger worked with Elizabeth Susman and Lori Francis, professors of biobehavioral health at Penn State University.

"Children react differently to stress, based on their resilience, environment, and capacity for self-regulation," Granger said. "If we can identify those young people at risk for greater stress responses, then we may be able to intervene to reduce the likelihood of comfort eating as a stress response."

The study was published in the December 2012 edition of the journal Appetite.

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