Stress hormone linked to depression in obese children

6/15/2009

NEW YORK A new study linked irregular levels of cortisol with symptoms of depression in obese children, and confirmed that obesity and depression often occur together, even in children.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone that helps the body’s response to stress, among other functions. Typically, cortisol levels peak in late morning and reach their low point at night. However, depressed adults face slightly elevated cortisol levels at night. This chronic elevation of cortisol contributes to development of the metabolic syndrome, which includes abdominal obesity and other risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

"We recommend that obese children be screened for depression and anxiety, especially female adolescents, who have the highest risk," said the study's lead author, Dr. Panagiota Pervanidou of Athens University Medical School in Athens, Greece. "In addition, children with a diagnosis of depression should be evaluated for disordered eating, because these patients frequently develop obesity or anorexia."

Data from the study was presented at The Endocrine Society’s 91st Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

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