THURSDAY, March 20, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Childhood abuse or neglect could take a lasting toll on physical health, a new study suggests.
It found that child maltreatment may trigger long-term hormone problems that increase the risk of obesity, diabetes and other health problems in adulthood.
Researchers examined levels of weight-regulating hormones in 95 adults, aged 35 to 65, who suffered physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect as children. They were grouped according to the severity of abuse and neglect.
Three hormones were examined in the study. Leptin is involved in appetite regulation and is linked to fat levels. Irisin is involved in energy metabolism. Adiponectin reduces inflammation in the body.
The adults who suffered the most severe abuse and neglect during childhood tended to have higher levels of leptin and irisin and lower levels of adiponectin. The irregularities in the levels of these hormones are all risk factors for obesity.
Even after the researchers accounted for differences in diet, exercise and other lifestyle factors, they found that high levels of leptin and irisin were still associated with childhood abuse and neglect.
The findings are to be published in the June issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
"This study helps illuminate why people who have dealt with childhood adversity face a higher risk of developing excess belly fat and related health conditions," study author Dr. Christos Mantzoros, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the VA Boston Healthcare System, said in a journal news release.
"The data suggest that childhood adversity places stress on the endocrine system, leading to impairment of important hormones that can contribute to abdominal obesity well into adulthood," he added.
"Understanding these mechanisms could help health care providers develop new and better interventions to address this population's elevated risk of abdominal obesity and cardio-metabolic risk later in life," Mantzoros concluded.
The study found an association between child abuse or neglect and variations in hormone levels linked to obesity. It didn't prove cause-and-effect.
The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases outlines the health risks of being overweight.