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Nov 09, 2015 02:19 PM EST

What an individual think of their body can affect their obesity risk, according to a recent study from the University of Texas at Houston.

"Our last study found that participants who were depressed were twice as likely to be obese six years later, implying a cause-and-effect relationship between depression and obesity. In this new study, when body image was introduced, we found no association between major depression and obesity, meaning that body image is the mediating factor," Robert E. Roberts, first author and professor of health promotion and behavioral sciences, said in the statement.

For the study, researchers examined data from a study called Teen Health 2000 (TH2K) which surveyed youth ages 11 to 17 in the Houston area. The participants were asked to describe themselves as skinny, somewhat skinny, average weight, somewhat overweight or overweight. They were also measured for height, weight and whether they had a major depressive episode in the last year.

They found that participants who perceived themselves to be overweight, regardless of how much they weighed, were twice as likely to be obese a year after they were surveyed. Young women in the group were three times more likely to be obese at the one-year mark.

According to the paper, previous research has indicated that negative body image is associated with greater psychological distress, more disordered eating, binge eating and fewer health-promoting behaviors such as physical activity and consumption of fruits and vegetables.

"Clinically, addressing body image in depressed patients who are obese may improve outcomes," Roberts said.

The findings are detailed in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

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