Today’s obese children aren’t just carrying around extra weight. According to researchers from Erasmus Medical Clinic, at Sophia Children’s Hospital in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, they are also carrying higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
The study observed 20 obese and 20 normal-weight children aged 8–12. To determine cortisol levels, researchers took scalp hair samples from each subject. Data showed that obese children had higher levels of hair cortisol than normal-weight children.
“Hair cortisol concentration, a measure for long-term cortisol exposure, was higher in obese children than normal-weight children,” the authors stated. “This suggests long-term activation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis in obese children and may provide a novel target for treatment of obesity in children.”
According to information from the Mayo Clinic website, long-term elevation of stress levels can increase a person’s risk of anxiety, depression, heart disease, sleep problems and more.
The study was published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (2013; doi: 10.1210/ jc.2013-2924).