Stress affects everybody--even children--and for kids who can't handle the pressure, the health risks are as real as they are for adults, reports.

A study by researchers from the Pennsylvania State University and the John Hopkins University revealed the link between stress and obesity in children. Working with 43 kids from ages five to nine, a team led by associate professor Lori Francis observed how they reacted to stress when they were asked to deliver a speech and perform a mathematical task. Stress was measured by the amount of cortisol (a steroid hormone) found in the kids' saliva before and after the trial.

The children were then observed for their eating tendencies even after confirming that they were not hungry. After providing them with lunch, the researchers left them in a room with more snacks and toys and were told that they could eat or play as much as they wanted.

The children were found to consume a total of 250 kilocalories of snacks. Those who had higher body mass indices (BMIs) and were more stressed showed higher cortisol levels and consumed more calories as compared to those who didn't.

Francis notes, "We also found that kids whose cortisol levels stayed high--in other words, they had low recovery--had the highest BMIs and consumed the greater number of calories in the absence of hunger."

In order to avoid juvenile "stress eating," it's important for parents to be involved in their home and school life without nagging or being too pushy. Supporting children in their endeavors can help them build confidence, which would lessen fears of performing certain tasks or going through trials. This way, children can be better adjusted to handle stress without resorting to unhealthy outlets.

(Photo by amber simmons via Flickr Creative Commons)

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