Black women who were abused as children may go on to have a higher rate of obesity as adults, a large observational study showed.
Severe physical and sexual abuse in childhood or the teen years predicted 29% higher risk of overall and abdominal obesity in this segment of the U.S. population, Renée Boynton-Jarrett, MD, ScD, of Boston University, and colleagues found.
The associations persisted after adjustment for physical activity, socioeconomics, depression, and other key factors, the group reported in the August issue of Pediatrics.
“Our findings suggest that efforts to prevent child abuse have implications for current and future health,” they wrote. “Moreover, for survivors of abuse, behavioral patterns associated with cardiovascular risk may emerge in childhood and require tailored interventions that address trauma history in addition to modification of health behaviors.”
Prior studies have suggested a link between abuse in early life and obesity, though they have not looked at racially or ethnically diverse groups.
One reason for the link may be “the use of food in response to stress in adulthood,” particularly comfort foods, Boynton-Jarrett’s group suggested.
Other mechanisms could be an influence on mood and mental health that leads to sedentary behaviors or on glucocorticoid levels that stimulate insulin and appetite, they added.