Health experts have some new information for families struggling with childhood obesity, suggesting that there may be more to the condition than the child's diet and level of exercise.


According to new research from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, parents with a high number of stressors in their lives are more likely to have obese children.  The study, published recently in the journal, Pediatrics, found that parental stressors, such as financial strain, poor health, and leading a single parent household, played a significant role in whether or not their children were obese.


For the study, researchers analyzed self-reported data from over 2,000 families who participated in telephone surveys for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey/Community Health Database in 2006.  The surveys were conducted in Philadelphia and nearby suburbs.  Researchers found that 25 percent of the children in the families surveyed were obese. And they found that parents who reported stress - particularly certain types of stress - were more likely to have children that were obese.


Specifically, single-parent households had the strongest relationship with fast food consumption, while parents who reported financial stress were more likely to have children who were not being physically active.


This type of research might change the way that health care professionals look at - and treat - childhood obesity.  “Clinical care, research and other programs might reduce levels of childhood obesity by developing supportive measures to reduce stressors on parents,” said Elizabeth Prout-Parks, M.D., a physician nutrition specialist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.



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