How Growing Up Poor Could Change the Way You Eat

A new study finds that childhood socio-economic factors could have a lasting impact on food regulation.

By Becky Fogel & Hady MawajdehFebruary 19, 2016 10:05 am

For years, researchers have been looking into socioeconomic status and how it relates to obesity, diet and health issues. A new study out of Texas Christian University seems to have uncovered a link between childhood poverty and lifelong eating habits.

Researchers conducted three different studies looking at the relationship between a person’s childhood resources and their biological energy needs. They wanted to know whether or not these factors would impact how much a person ate.

Lead researcher on the project, Sarah Hill, says things got interesting is when they looked at people who grew up in poorer environments.

“What we found for these participants is that they ate comparably high amounts of food, regardless of how long it had been since they had last eaten a meal or how hungry they felt,” Hill says.

Hill says she and the other researchers predicted that something like this would occur. If a person were to grow up with fewer access to resources and food scarcity, then that could provide a cue as to what their expected adult environment might be like.

But the research raises more questions than it answers, Hill says. What are the biological mechanisms that are different in people who grow up in poorer environments? Are there differences in learning food habits?

Either way, Hill says from an evolutionary perspective, we should expect that individuals adapt in a way that would help promote survival in their expected adult environment.

“Your childhood environment plays an important role in calibrating the way that (your) regulatory mechanisms develop,” she says.