Obese Children Showed Signs of Stress

Obese children had higher levels of a hormone related to stress

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Stress can affect any of us, and one recent study found that bodies of obese children may be under more hormonal stress than their normal weight peers.

Researchers looked at hair samples in children to gauge exposure to cortisol, a hormone that is produced during periods of stress. These researchers used hair because of its ability to accurately show hormonal levels within the blood stream over a long period of time.

This study found that obese children had an overall higher accumulation of cortisol in their hair than children of normal weight.

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This study was conducted by Margriet Veldhorst, PhD, of Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and colleagues.

This study looked at 40 children between 8 and 12 years of age. Half of the children were obese, while the other half were of normal weight. Each group consisted of 15 girls and five boys.

These researchers analyzed the children’s scalp hair to see if obese children carried more cortisol, which is believed to indicate stress levels. 

The research showed an average concentration of 25 picograms per milligram (pg/mg) of cortisol in the obese group versus 17 pg/mg in the normal weight group. These numbers reflect cortisol levels for about one month.

Dr. Veldhorst and team set out to verify the higher levels of cortisol in the hair of obese children compared to normal normal weight children.

The researchers pointed out that they did not know if the obese children experienced more psychological stress, which causes the rise in cortisol levels, or if their bodies simply handled stress hormones differently than normal weight children.

Additional study will be required to determine the cause of these results. The researchers suggested it may lead to changes in how we treat obesity in children.

This study was published December 18 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

The authors made no disclosures.

Review Date: 
December 17, 2013
Last Updated:
December 20, 2013