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Safety net cuts increase child obesity

July 23, 2011 at 11:56 AM   |   Comments

CHAMPAIGN, Ill., July 23 (UPI) -- Social safety net programs -- such as food stamps -- which reduce stress for low-income families also lead to less childhood obesity, U.S. researchers say.

Craig Gundersen of the University of Illinois and colleagues at the Iowa State University say psychosocial factors, such as stressors brought about by uncertainty about the economy, income inequality and a fraying social safety net also must be considered when considering child obesity.

"Energy-in, energy-out is important, but energy (calorie) imbalance isn't the only thing leading to overweight status among children," Gundersen says in a statement.

"We also know that people have very different ways of responding to the same amount of food intake and exercise, and one of the factors that may influence how people react to eating and exercise is through the amount of stress they're under."

Gundersen says stressors are particularly prevalent for low-income children.

"We've found is that stress is a leading cause of obesity among children. So if there's any way we can reduce stressors from a policy standpoint, that will also have the effect of reducing obesity."

If Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- food stamps -- are cut or reduced it would increase the amount of stress that low-income families would face, which would then subsequently lead to increases in obesity, Gundersen says.

The findings are published in the journal Obesity Reviews.

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