A team of researchers at Texas Christian University has found that people who grow up poor seem to have a significantly harder time regulating their food intake throughout their lives, even when they are not hungry (Source: “The crippling thing about growing up poor that stays with you forever,” Washington Post, Feb. 12, 2016).
According to the study, those who grew up in higher socioeconomic households exhibited normal consumption behavior—eating when they were hungry, saying no thank you to the snacks when they were full. Those who grew up in lower socioeconomic households, meanwhile, ate no matter how hungry they were, regardless of the study participants’current socioeconomic status.
The reason why people who grow up in poorer households seem to have trouble controlling how much they eat when they are not actually hungry is not entirely clear. One theory is that for those who never had to worry about a meal, foregoing a snack is an afterthought. But for those who did, it could mean the difference between a good night's sleep and hours awake in bed.
The researchers caution that these findings do not establish a direct causal relationship between childhood poverty and eating in the absence of energy need. However, they do suggest that early environmental experiences may influence how individuals regulate their energy needs.