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Stress Health. 2013 Feb;29(1):5-13. doi: 10.1002/smi.1435. Epub 2011 Dec 21.

The relationship between childhood parental loss and metabolic syndrome in obese subjects.

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Department of Psychiatry, Luigi Sacco University Hospital, Milan, Italy.


The increasing global trend of obesity is a fundamental contributor to the growing prevalence of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of medical abnormalities including impaired glucose and lipid metabolism, obesity and hypertension. Results from animal and human investigations have shown that early life stress can result in weight gain and metabolic changes. Our aim is to investigate whether a particular type of an early adverse event, i.e. parental loss during childhood, is associated with the development of metabolic syndrome in severely obese subjects. One hundred thirty-five consecutive obese patients who were seeking bariatric surgery were assessed for metabolic syndrome according to the Adult Treatment Panel (ATP) III criteria. Information regarding the experience of parental separation or bereavement before the age of 17 was collected with the use of a semi-structured interview. In our population, 31.1% of the subjects met the criteria for metabolic syndrome. No significant differences in demographic factors, health habits or psychiatric diagnosis were found between patients with and without coexisting metabolic syndrome. After adjusting for age and gender, multivariate logistic regression analysis revealed that both childhood loss of a parent and a body mass index (BMI) value greater than 50 were significant predictors of metabolic syndrome. This study provides preliminary evidence linking childhood parental loss to risk factors for the development of metabolic syndrome.

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