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
Breastfeeding protects against overweight and obesity, asthma, eczema, and type-II diabetes, and has long-term health benefits for women. The health benefits of breastfeeding are so valuable that in 1981, the World Health Organization established the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes (WHO Code) that prohibits marketing infant formula to … More
Effect of a Home-Visiting Intervention to Reduce Early Childhood Obesity Among Native American Children
The objective of this study was to assess the impact of a brief home-visiting approach, Family Spirit Nurture (FSN), on sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption, responsive parenting and infant feeding practices, and optimal growth through 12 months post partum. This study was a 1:1 randomized clinical trial comparing FSN with an … More
Serving Their Needs: A Qualitative Examination of Nutrition Policy Implementation in the Early Care and Education Setting
Identifying strategies to assist children in establishing healthy habits is essential to reduce the risk of childhood obesity. The Early Care and Education (ECE) setting is ideal for the implementation of obesity prevention practices. However, there are barriers present for implementing nutrition policies in this setting. This report explores the … More