Washington: Gorging on food can cause obesity, but the fear of not having enough food may also lead to the same result, says a new study.

According to researchers, being worried about not having enough food to feed one's family, a situation called food insecurity, is common in low-income families. These families too are often are overweight.

Food insecure mothers also were more concerned about their child becoming overweight than mothers who were not worried about having enough food for their families, the study said.

"Understanding the reasons why poverty puts families at greater risk of obesity is essential to addressing the epidemic," said Rachel Gross, assistant professor of paediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York, who led the study, the journal Paediatrics reports.

Gross and colleagues at the New York University School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital Centre interviewed 201 low-income mothers with infants younger than six months, according to an Einstein statement.

They were queried about their feeding styles (whether they tried to control how much the child ate), feeding practices (breastfeeding, adding cereal to bottles) and concerns about their child becoming overweight.

Researchers found that feeding patterns leading to obesity often begin in infancy. Results of their study showed that about one-third of the mothers, who were Hispanic, reported food insecurity.

"We found that food insecurity is related to controlling feeding practices, which have been shown to increase child obesity," Gross said. It is believed that when mothers control what an infant eats, it may disrupt the child's ability to regulate his or her own hunger and fullness, leading to overeating and inappropriate weight gain, Gross added.

"This work suggests that in addition to addressing hunger and malnutrition, it is critical that policy efforts be made to work with food insecure families to prevent the opposite problem - obesity," Gross said.

These finding were presented Saturday at the Paediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Boston, US.