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 first 1,000 days, or the period from conception through age 2, is increasingly recognized as a critical period for the development of childhood obesity and its adverse consequences. This issue brief is based on two review papers that examined evidence on risk factors for developing childhood obesity and interventions … More
The healthfulness of foods and beverages found in retail food stores differs widely across the United States, both by location of the store as well as by store type. Some communities have limited access to stores that carry healthful staple foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grain-rich foods, and … More
U.S. states have introduced bills requiring sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) to display health warning labels. This study examined how warning labels influence parents and which labels are most effective. Over 2,000 demographically and educationally diverse parents of children ages 6 to 11 participated in an online survey. Parents were randomized to … More