A collaborative research team from Penn State and Johns Hopkins Universities recruited children aged between five and nine years old to take part in long term research which established each child’s individual response to social and academic stress.
For the study the children were asked to present a speech and complete a maths task. The children had saliva swabs taken before and after the tests which established the levels of cortisol, the stress hormones that is released from the adrenal glands. cortisol triggers a number of changes throughout the body including increased blood pressure, blood sugar levels and heightened vigilance.
The research team then tried to see the link between stress and appetite by offering all of the children snacks after lunch. It was found that those children who had greater levels of cortisol in their bodies were more likely to consume more calories even though they were not hungry.
It was subsequently concluded that the more a child experiences stress, the more likely they are to eat and therefore at a greater risk of weight gain and obesity. As a result, health care providers should be helping children deal with stress in order that the do not consume extra food without thinking about it.