Girls who were told they were fat at the age of 10 are more likely to be obese at the age of 19, according to the results of a new US study.
The findings out of the University of Los Angeles California underscore the importance of refraining from making flippant fat comments to young, impressionable girls: simply being called fat is enough to make them believe it and increase their odds of becoming obese later in life.
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For their study, published online in JAMA Pediatrics this week, researchers took the measurements of more than 1,210 black girls and 1,160 white girls living in Northern California, Cincinnati and Washington DC, 58 percent of whom had been told they were fat at the age of 10.
Nine years later, researchers found that the girls who had been called fat were 1.66 times more likely than their counterparts to be obese at 19, even after statistically removing the effects of their actual weight.
Likewise, as the number of people who told a girl she was fat increased, so did her odds of becoming obese.
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"Being labeled as too fat may lead people to worry about personally experiencing the stigma and discrimination faced by overweight individuals, and recent research suggests that experiencing or anticipating weight stigma increases stress and can lead to overeating," explained study co-author Jeffrey Hunger.
Another reason to lay off the fat comments? A study published last year found that obese children produce higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol than their peers of normal weight.