A study discovered that the levels of stress hormone cortisol were up to 50% higher among obese children.
Scientists think that this could be because obese children may be victims of bullying. Since the hormone cortisol fuels muffin tops and pot bellies, it could be more difficult for young boys and girls to lose weight.
Dutch researchers examined 20 children struggling with weight and 20 children of normal weight. They then measured levels of cortisol using their hair samples, since the build-up of this hormone in hair is regarded as a sign of long-term stress.
Researcher Erica van den Akker said: “We surprised to find obese children as young as age eight already had elevated cortisol levels. By analysing children’s scalp hair, we were able to confirm high cortisol levels persisted over time.”
They believe that the stress of being bullied and having a low self-esteem could be behind the rise in cortisol levels among obese children.
Dr van der Akker, of Erasmus MC-Sophia Children’s Hospital in Rotterdam, said “We know from other studies that hair cortisol can be used as a biomarker of psychological stress.”
Further research could help establish new treatments for childhood obesity, which if put to an end can lead to a happier and care-free life for young boys and girls.