Socio-economic stress in childhood may be linked


EDMONTON – According to a University of Alberta, a stressful childhood is a precursor to obesity in later life study that challenges the notion that junk food advertising is the root of the obesity epidemic.

Jim Swaffield, consumer psychology researcher at the Alberta School of Businesswho conducted the study with Qi Guo, researcher of the Faculty of Education, explains that it has long been known that stress induces appetite. “What we didn’t know, however, was that stressful conditions experienced during early childhood appear to calibrate the brain to crave energy-rich foods throughout the lifespan,” Swaffield continues. “This research also helps explain why people of lower socioeconomic status, who live in chronically stressful conditions, have higher obesity rates.”

For the study, 311 adults (133 men and 178 women) were shown random images of food items from each of the six major food categories — vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, meat/poultry and sweets — and rated how desirable each food was. article is.

The participants were then asked a series of questions about their early childhood socioeconomic circumstances and current stress levels.

What they found was that adults who grew up in difficult socio-economic conditions were highly motivated to eat food and largely wanted only energy-rich foods, while adults who grew up in safe socio-economic conditions were more likely to eat only if they were hungry.

Swaffield and Gou’s study comes as pressure mounts to ban junk food advertising. And while banning junk food ads makes intuitive sense, Swaffield notes that there are real implications if the correlation between obesity and advertising is spurious.

“If we make a mistake in identifying the cause of obesity, we will fail to develop a strategy to correct this problem, and the number of people living with these conditions will continue to grow.”

The study, “How children’s socioeconomic status affects adults’ food preferences: the mediating role of stress and appetite”, was published in the magazine behavioral sciences.

To read the full story, click here. For more information, please contact:

Michael Brown
UAlberta media strategist
mjbrown1@ualberta.ca


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