Researcher Links Obesity and Childhood Trauma

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Vincent Felitti, MD(Photo: Kaiser Permanente)
Vincent Felitti, MD(Photo: Kaiser Permanente)

Millions of Americans spend billions of dollars every year even during a recession trying to lose weight. Still, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta says the percentage of people in the U.S. considered obese is trending upward.

The CDC defines obese as having a body mass index of equal to or more than 30. In Ohio, the rate of obesity has more than doubled two decades, going from one out of every eight people to more than one out of every four. Perhaps there is more to this weight loss thing than just: eat less, exercise more.

While running a program that helped severely overweight people lose hundreds of pounds, San Diego Internist and Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California Dr. Vincent Felitti wondered why some of his most successful patients dropped out and regained the weight they had lost. He set about finding the answer, and came up with some surprising conclusions.

Felitti developed a way to calculate the impact on an adult of what he calls Adverse Childhood Experiences. He found 10 categories of trauma to be common among the thousands of middle class patients in his obesity program.

Felitti explains that a score of “one” means an individual was exposed to one category. The score is not related to the number of times a person suffered an abuse or exposure. His research indicates the consequences of Adverse Childhood Experiences can include, among other things, higher rates of suicide, and abuse of drugs and alcohol.

Felitti contends, people who suffer certain types of trauma as a child might, as an adult, eat or drink too much, abuse drugs or tobacco as a form of self medication.

Vincent Felitti is founding chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program in San Diego. He was in Columbus recently to address a meeting of the Ohio State University College of Public Health and the Ohio Department of Mental Health.Adverse Childhood Experiences ACE Calculator/Questionnaire Finding Your ACE Score While you were growing up, during your first 18 years of life: 1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________ 2. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________ 3. Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________ 4. Did you often or very often feel that No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________ 5. Did you often or very often feel that You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________ 6. Were your parents ever separated or divorced? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________ 7. Was your mother or stepmother: Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________ 8. Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic or who used street drugs? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________ 9. Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________ 10. Did a household member go to prison? Yes No If yes enter 1 _______ Now add up your “Yes” answers: _______ This is your ACE Score. 092406RA4CR

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