A new study, from research conducted at Iowa State University, could help address the growing problem of childhood obesity. Brenda Lohman, an ISU professor of Human Development and Family Studies, says the study looked at obesity tendencies in low-income households where mothers are under stress. She says as the moms became more stressed out, the kids got heavier.

"It could be that the children are just simply overeating…in reaction to their mother’s stress," Lohman said. "In addition, it could be that they’re choosing more of the comfort foods – like French fries – that comfort them more in times of stress." The authors hope pediatricians and counselors will use the research to examine environmental factors in addition to diet and exercise when working with overweight kids.

"Factors that are going on in the home such as having a stressed parent are also going to influence their decisions on what they eat, whether they exercise or not, and ultimately if they become overweight or not," Lohman said. ISU researchers studied the behavior of mothers, as they are more commonly the heads of low-income households. Lohman says future research may include fathers. The study was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.