– EN Fitness & Wellbeing – Children who are bullied for being fat may end up gaining even more weight, new research has sadly revealed.
Overweight kids who are bullied put on an average of seven ounces (200g) more every year than children who are not bullied, scientists at the National Institutes of Health and Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Maryland found.
They suggested those who were teased are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviours, such as binge eating and avoiding exercise.
Also, the stress of being bullied could stimulate the release of the hormone cortisol, which may lead to weight gain, the study found.
Researchers surveyed 110 children, who were aged 11, and were either overweight when they began the study or had parents who were overweight or obese.
They were then asked whether they had been teased about their weight and went on to participate in annual follow-up visits for the next 15 years.
Almost half (43 per cent) said they had been teased about their weight at least once, even if they weren’t already fat themselves.
Scientists measured how much people’s Body Mass Index (BMI), a measure of height to weight ratio, changed over time – a healthy range is between 18 and 24.
People who experienced the worst bullying saw their BMI rise by 0.76 points per year, while this was just 0.57 points for kids who were not teased.
It was not clear whether teasing stemming from children’s peers or their parents had a worse effect.
“Continued efforts should be made to educate the public about the potentially harmful effects of weight-based teasing,” the researchers said, before suggesting that more should be done to help vulnerable children.
The study was published in Pediatric Obesity.