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
Examining the Effects of Taxes and Warning Labels on Parents’ Purchases of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Using a Choice Experiment
The purpose of this study is to conduct a discrete choice experiment to investigate whether warning labels on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) alter the effectiveness of a tax on SSBs, especially among parents who are Black, Latinx and lower income. The research team will conduct an online choice experiment with 2,700 … More
SHIFT: Testing Culturally Appropriate Messaging for Black Community to Limit Children’s Sugary-Beverage Intake and Increase Water Consumption
The project’s goal is to conduct a randomized, controlled trial to evaluate the impact of a culturally appropriate social behavior change communication campaign on sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) and water consumption among black families with children aged 0-5 years. Specific aims include: (1) Deliver a culturally appropriate social behavior change communication … More
This study seeks to develop and test the impact of “nudges” in an online grocery store on purchases of fruit drinks and healthier substitutes among a sample of low-income parents of children ages 1-5 years. The goal of this project is to reduce fruit drink intake among low-income children, including … More