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Abused or Bullied Youth at Greater Risk of Obesity

Risk may be due in part to "negative affect" and disordered eating associated with violence

FRIDAY, April 8 (HealthDay News) -- Children exposed to interpersonal violence, whether abused by their caregivers or bullied by their peers, are more likely to be obese, according to a literature review published online March 15 in Obesity Reviews.

Aimee J. Midei and Karen A. Matthews, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh, reviewed 36 studies to evaluate associations between exposure to interpersonal violence in childhood and risk for obesity and central adiposity. They also assessed the evidence for possible mechanisms connecting violence to obesity, including negative affect (a term used for a collection of negative issues, such as depression, anxiety, perceived stress, and anger), disordered eating, and physical inactivity.

The researchers found that 29 of the studies (approximately 81 percent) correlated some form of interpersonal violence in childhood with obesity. There were consistent associations across the literature linking obesity to caregiver physical and sexual abuse and peer bullying. The link to community violence, however, was less consistent. Although only a few studies examined mechanisms, available evidence indicated a role for disordered eating and negative affect, including anger, perceived stress, and depressive symptoms.

"Analyzing and clarifying the relationship between interpersonal violence in childhood and obesity may increase our understanding of the pathogenesis of obesity. The list of childhood psychosocial stressors predicting obesity, such as poor social support and clinical depression, may now include interpersonal violence," the authors write.

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