The association between stress in early life and obesity and overweight in adulthood is well established. There is also increasing evidence of a link between stress exposure in childhood (or in utero) and child and adolescent obesity. Major sources of early life stress include adverse childhood experiences (e.g., abuse), poverty, food insecurity, and poor relationships with primary caregivers. Exposure to chronic and acute early life stressors can disrupt the biological stress regulation system, change the structure of regions of the brain responsible for emotion regulation and other important tasks, and promote eating behaviors and dietary patterns, as well as lifestyle factors (e.g., poor sleep, low physical activity), that may increase obesity risk. This research review summarizes and provides examples from the scientific literature on the association between early life stress exposure and childhood obesity risk. The review finds that there are multiple, highly intertwined biological, behavioral, and cross-cutting pathways that are altered by acute and chronic stress exposure in ways that contribute to heightened obesity risk. Developing a better understanding of the mechanisms that link early life stress exposures with childhood obesity risk will be particularly important for developing future childhood obesity prevention interventions that seek to reduce health disparities.
Stress in Early Life and Childhood Obesity Risk
The Academic, Behavioral, and Health Influence of Summer Child Nutrition Programs: A Narrative Review and Proposed Research and Policy Agenda
Since 1975, the US Department of Agriculture has sponsored the Summer Food Service Program as a nationwide strategy for providing nutritious meals to children and youth (aged 18 years or younger) in low-income communities during the summer months. Many programs are sponsored by community organizations as well as school districts … More
Engaging Fathers in Early Obesity Prevention During the First 1,000 Days: Policy, Systems, and Environmental Change Strategies
Fathers are critical stakeholders in childhood obesity prevention but are difficult to engage. This review presents a new approach to engaging fathers in obesity prevention during the first 1,000 days. The review focuses on five existing health and social service programs, including prenatal care, pediatric care, the Special Supplemental Nutrition … More
Parental and Provider Perceptions of Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Interventions in the First 1,000 Days: A Qualitative Study
Novel approaches to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption during the first 1,000 days – pregnancy through age 2 years – are urgently needed. This study examined perceptions of SSB consumption and acceptability of potential intervention strategies to promote SSB avoidance in low income families in the first 1,000 days. Themes … More