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Obese Children Have Higher Hair Cortisol Concentrations

Findings seen in cohort of 20 obese children, 20 age- and sex-matched normal-weight children

FRIDAY, Dec. 20, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Obese children have higher concentrations of hair cortisol than their normal-weight peers, according to a study published online Dec. 18 in the Journal of Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Noting that pathologically increased cortisol exposure induces obesity, Margriet Veldhorst, Ph.D., from Erasmus MC-Sophia Children's Hospital in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and colleagues compared hair cortisol concentrations in 20 obese and 20 age- and sex-matched normal-weight children (five boys and 15 girls) aged 8 to 12 years (mean age, 10.8 years). Hair cortisol concentrations were measured using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay on scalp hair samples from the posterior vertex.

The researchers found that obese children had higher body weight, body mass index (BMI), BMI-standard deviation score, and waist circumference than normal-weight children (P = 0.001 for all). Obese children also had higher hair cortisol concentrations than normal-weight children (median, 25 versus 17 pg/mg; P < 0.05).

"Hair cortisol concentrations, a measure for long-term cortisol exposure, were higher in obese compared with normal-weight children," the authors write. "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."

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