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Childhood Abuse can Increase Obesity Risk in Adulthood

Sep 03, 2014 07:29 AM EDT
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Childhood abuse can increase obesity risk in adulthood, a new study shows.

The study was conducted by researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. It was based on data from 112,000 people and shows that the effects of childhood abuse can linger for years.

Previous research has shown that childhood abuse increases the risk of depression and mental disorders. Some people who have faced trauma as a child might even have higher odds of developing chronic health complications such as diabetes and even certain types of cancer.

In the present study, the researchers used data from 23 studies with a total of 112,000 participants. The researchers found that the risk of obesity was 34 percent higher among adults who were victims of abuse during childhood when compared to other people who weren't abused.

The team even categorized abuse and found that people exposed to general abuse had the highest risk of developing obesity - 45 percent. Emotional abuse increases obesity risk by 36 percent, followed by sexual abuse (31 percent) and physical abuse (28 percent).

People who were severely abused had 50 percent higher risk of obesity when compared to 13 per cent for moderate abuse, according to a news release.

"The study clearly shows that difficult life events leave traces which can manifest as disease much later in life. The mechanisms behind this process include stress, negative patterns of thought and emotions, poor mental health, increased inflammation, as well as lowered immune function and metabolism," said Erik Hemmingsson, researcher at the Huddinge Department of Medicine at Karolinska Institute.

Stockholm County Council funded the study and it is published in the journal Obesity Reviews. 

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