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The role of emotion regulation in childhood obesity: implications for prevention and treatment

  • E. Aparicio (a1), J. Canals (a2) (a3), V. Arija (a1) (a4), S. De Henauw (a5) (a6) and N. Michels (a5)...

Abstract

Stress and negative emotions pose a major threat to public health, by increasing the risk of obesity. Since the management process for emotions (emotion regulation; ER) is developed in childhood, we present a novel conceptual framework model for the role of ER in the prevention and treatment of childhood obesity. A narrative review of the literature by electronic database search (MEDLINE, Web of Knowledge and Scopus) was conducted of observational and interventional/experimental literature on ER and obesity and the underlying concepts. We also present an overview of ER intervention techniques. Our model indicates that childhood ER is a link between stress and obesity. Stress along with ineffective ER leads to abnormal cortisol patterns, emotional eating, sedentary lifestyle, reduction of physical activity, and sleep problems. Simultaneously, a healthy lifestyle could show benefits on ER and in developing adaptive ER strategies. In the development of obesity and ER, parents also play a role. By contrast, effective ER skills decrease obesity-related unhealthy behaviour and enhance protective factors, which boost health. The literature contains some observational studies of children but very few intervention studies, most of which are pilot or on-going studies. In conclusion, encouraging effective ER could be a useful new approach for combating and treating childhood obesity. Future ER intervention studies are needed to confirm the validity of this model in children.

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Corresponding author

* Corresponding author: Nathalie Michels, email nathalie.michels@ugent.be

References

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