Thursday, September 11, 2008

Link Discovered Between a Mother's Stress and Her Child Becoming Overweight

“A mother's stress may contribute to her young children being overweight in low-income households with sufficient food, according to a new Iowa State University study that is published in the September issue of Pediatrics, the professional journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The study analyzed data collected from 841 children in 425 households in the 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The researchers used mothers' responses to interview questions to determine their mental, physical, financial and family structure levels of stress -- producing a cumulative stress index. The child's weight status was determined by their Body Mass Index (BMI), age and sex. Subjects were also broken into two age groups: three to 10 and 11 to 17 years of age. Household food insecurity status -- whether or not there is enough food to sustain healthy, active lifestyles for all household members -- was also measured from the mothers' interview responses. In households with no maternal stress, low-income children in food secure households had a 33.0 percent probability of being overweight, while those in food insecure households had a 34.8 percent probability. As maternal stress levels increased, the probability of becoming overweight increased in children from food secure households, but decreased among those in food insecure households. When the maternal stress was found to be at twice the average level of the study sample, children in food-secure households had a 43.7 percent greater probability of being overweight or obese when compared with children in food insecure households. The researchers have future plans to measure the stress levels of fathers in determining overall household stress. ‘Recognizing the complexity of the issue allows us to recognize that we have more options to help children,’ he said. ‘If we can reduce mom's stress -- whether it be mental health or financial issues -- the direct effect on mom is helping her, and that's good. But we can also hope to see indirect effects on other household members and children. For example, their reduced probability of becoming obese is another benefit to helping mom.’”

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