Childhood Trauma Linked to Adult Obesity

Childhood trauma may cause some adults gain weight and have difficulty losing it, according to a new study of more than 17,000 patients in the Kaiser Permanente health system.

In 1987 Dr. Vincent Felitti studied 286 obese people in the Kaiser system and found that 50% had been sexually abused as children, a much higher rate than average. He decided to look into other kinds of childhood trauma that may be linked to overweight, and began to investigate previous studies.

One study of more than 11,000 women found that those who had been abused as children were 27 percent more likely to be overweight.
A study of 15,000 teenagers found that sexual childhood abuse in males raised their risk of obesity as adults to 66 percent.
Dr. Felitti then began the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study involving a database of over 17,000 Kaiser patients.

Dr. Felitti and his colleagues defined adverse experience as ongoing childhood neglect, living with one or no biological parent, having a mentally ill or drug addicted parent, having a parent in jail, witnessing domestic violence, and sexual, physical or emotional abuse. Children who had four or more of these experiences had double the risk of obesity, double the risk of heart attack and stroke, and four times the risk for emphysema.

Dr. Felitti and others believe that food is a comforting escape for abused children.

“Being fat is not the problem,” he said. “It’s the solution.”

What’s more troubling about the study is that some researchers believe that adverse experiences in childhood can lead to permanent biological changes in certain areas of the body, and that such changes are passed down from one generation to the next.

Family Therapy Can Help Depressed Teens, Parents

Children whose parents are depressed are more at risk for depression themselves. Now two new studies from Vanderbilt University indicate that family treatments for depression may lower a child’s risk.

The first study looked at two groups of adults with depression, and their children ages 9 to 15 years old. One group was assigned to cognitive behavioral therapy as a family unit. The other group used written materials that children and parents read on their own.

Children in the first group had half the incidence of depression compared to children in the second. The greatest benefits occurred a year after participation in the two kinds of therapy. The study appeared in the Journal of Consulting Clinical Psychology.

The second study found that cognitive behavioral therapy could help teenagers, but did not necessarily help parents with depression.

“We now have extremely encouraging evidence from two studies conducted at Vanderbilt, that we may be able to reduce the incidence of depression and other mental health problems in children at high risk,” said Prof. Bruce Compas.

The second study appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Young people with depression are more likely to do poorly in school and relationships, and they are at higher risk for substance abuse and suicide.

Six ‘Sex Myths’ that Many Teens Believe

Many parents fear having “the talk” with their teens, in part because they assume that in today’s hyper-sexualized society, young people already know all there is to know about the subject.

The truth, according to research by Dr. Sophia Yen, of the Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital is that many teenagers get their sexual information from inaccurate websites — and as a result, many teens hold the following six common erroneous beliefs about sex:

Myth #1: Emergency conception is hard to get. (The truth is that the “morning after pill” is sold over-the-counter to anyone over 18 years old, and that nine U.S. states permit the sale of these drugs to minors.)

Myth #2: All forms of emergency contraception cause abortions. (Truth: The Plan B pill prevents sperm from fertilizing the egg, thus preventing, not ending, pregnancy.)

3. Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are unsafe for teenagers. (Truth: When used correctly, IUDs are safe for teens.)

Myth #4: Birth control pills cause you to gain weight. (Truth: Research has shown no association between oral contraception and weight gain.)

Myth #5: You should get a PAP smear after you have sex. (Truth: The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that girls get their first PAP either three years after becoming sexually active or when they turn 21.)

Myth #6: You cannot get a sexually transmitted disease from kissing. (Truth: STDs such as herpes can be transmitted that way.)

Study Says Despondent Youth More Likely to Commit Crimes

Many young people involved in criminal behaviors believe that they will not live very long. This belief may increase their risk taking and levels of violence, according to a new study from Georgia State University that was the focus of a Jan. 13 ScienceDaily article.

Researchers interviewed 30 juvenile offenders who had grown up in very rough neighborhoods in Atlanta, Ga., about their beliefs and life styles, and then combed through data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a government study of over 20,000 young people and their parents.
The authors found that if a person believes his chances of being killed by age 21 are greater than 50 percent, the probability of offending behavior increases by 3.3 percent.
The probability of offending behavior increases by 3.4 percent if the perceived chance of living to age 35 is less than 50 percent.

“It turns out that if you boil it all down, the more you think you are going to die young, the more likely it is that you are going to engage in criminality and violence,” lead author Dr. Volkan Topalli said in the ScienceDaily article.

Study Surprise: Counseling After Traumatic Events Not Beneficial

When something terrible happens at a school, such as a shooting or a fire, counselors often rush in to discuss the situation with students and perform what is known as “psychological debriefing.”

Now a new study from Canada finds that there is no evidence that debriefing is helpful , and it may do more harm than good.

Dr. Stanley Kutcher of Dalhousie University studied various traumatic events that occurred at schools and found that most students took three to seven days before they felt normal again. Talking about the events was akin to reliving them.

“When people are put into a situation and then asked to relive, remember and sometimes even reenact their feelings and thoughts, it actually makes things worse for them,” Dr. Kutcher said. “You want to make sure the school goes about its regular business and does not shut down, does not bring all the kids into an assembly, doesn’t have to deal with grief counseling.”

Schools should support “a sense of safety, calmness, a sense of self and community efficacy, connectedness, and hope,” he wrote.