Children who are teased for their weight are likely to gain more body mass, according to a study which contradicts the belief that such ridicule may motivate youth to attempt to shed a few kilos.
The study, by researchers from the Uniformed Services University in the US, involved 110 youth who were an average of 11.8 years of age when they enrolled.
The participants were either overweight when they began the study or had two parents who were overweight or obese.
At enrollment, they completed a six-item questionnaire on whether they had been teased about their weight. They then participated in annual follow-up visits for the next 15 years.
The study, published in the journal Pediatric Obesity, shows that youth experiencing high levels of teasing gained an average of 0.20 kg per year more than those who did not.
Researchers theorise that weight-associated stigma may have made youths more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviours, such as binge eating and avoiding exercise.
Another possible explanation is that the stress of being teased could stimulate the release of the hormone cortisol, which may lead to weight gain, they said.