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Kids of Stressed, Low-Income Moms Prone to Weight Problems
Date:9/2/2008

Anxiety may prompt the children to eat unhealthy foods, study suggests

TUESDAY, Sept. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Younger children from low-income families who pick up the stress of their anxious mothers often respond by developing poor eating habits that raise their risk of becoming overweight, a new study says.

"Most low-income children in the U.S. are food secure, meaning they have access to a sufficient amount of food," said study lead author Craig Gundersen, an associate professor of agricultural and consumer economics at the University of Illinois. "And we found that children who experience maternal stress and can access food if they're feeling anxious tend to go for the so-called 'comfort foods,' which may not be the most healthy."

About 17 percent of American children between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese, and another 16.5 percent are overweight, the study authors noted.

The new findings, published in the September issue of the journal Pediatrics, were based on a survey of 841 children -- between the ages of 3 and 17-- and their mothers. Statistics collected between 1999 and 2002 by the National Health Nutrition Examination Survey were also reviewed.

All the mothers had incomes below 200 percent of the poverty line. They were asked about maternal stressors such as depression, child-care problems, family and financial difficulties, and health impediments to working. A household's routine access to food was also assessed.

Thirty-seven percent of the children were found to be either overweight or obese; 20 percent to 25 percent lived in low-income families with inadequate access to food -- so-called "food insecure" homes. The researchers found no apparent link between a mother's stress levels and any increased risk of weight problems in "food insecure" households.

But a risk for weight problems was found for children between the ages of 3 and 10 who lived in "food secure" home
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