Does obesity affect school performance?
June 14th, 2012
12:28 PM ET

Does obesity affect school performance?

By Amanda Gardner, Health

( - Obese children and teenagers face a slew of potential health problems as they get older, including an increased risk of diabetes, heart attacks, and certain cancers. As if that weren't enough, obesity may harm young people's long-term college and career prospects, too.

In recent years, an uneven yet growing body of research has suggested that obesity is associated with poorer academic performance beginning as early as kindergarten. Studies have variously found that obese students - and especially girls - tend to have lower test scores than their slimmer peers, are more likely to be held back a grade, and are less likely to go on to college.

The latest such study, published this week in the journal Child Development, followed 6,250 children from kindergarten through fifth grade and found that those who were obese throughout that period scored lower on math tests than non-obese children.

What's more, this pattern held even after the researchers took into account extenuating factors that can influence both body size and test scores, such as family income, race, the mother's education level and job status, and both parents' expectations for the child's performance in school.

Copyright Health Magazine 2011

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Filed under: Early childhood • Kids' health • Policy • Practice • Testing
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. WRG001

    Well, we know that while digesting a large meal, human brain activity slows...our ability to problem solve and think critically is harmed by heavy, starch laden meals...could be that unhealthy snacks and lunch during the day our adversely affecting these kid's blood sugar levels and ability to perform...even if temporarily. Hmmm...ban sugar and junk foods/beverages from schools and see what happens.

    June 27, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • WRG001

      our should be are...lo siento.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • WRG001

      Christ have mercy...typos! Sorry people...I'm clearly overweight and eating a cake, which is sapping my ability to think, spell...mmmm...cake.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:17 am |
  2. well

    ummm. really he/she could just be thinking of food. Try to teach it about food. If I give you 5 cakes and u ate 3 how many do you have johnny?

    June 26, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  3. spent

    Sure is tough to handle the ridicule which comes from this situation which would play into the scenario. Food and additives along with excessive sugar can play into this as well.

    June 24, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  4. Shaina

    I agree, the stress, stigma, and perhaps the socioeconomic factors involved with obesity in children also correlate with academic performance. I was an obese child and was always at the top of my class, despite the constant harassment.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  5. Flamespeak

    Bogus study is bogus.

    The amount of unmetabolized fat cells your body contains does not, in any way, influence your academic performance. Now, stress related to being obese (such as teasing and poorer performance at sports and the like) CAN be considered negative factors in effecting a child's performance, but the mere act of being obese holds no sway what so ever.

    June 17, 2012 at 6:37 am |
    • Trudy123

      Body fat may or may not influence brain performance, but too much of the poor quality food that obese children tend to eat definitely does. For instance, too much sugar plays havoc on neurotransmitters and insulin levels, and has been linked to problems in focusing, memory and fatigue (referred to as "brain fog"). Poor diet means not enough proper nutrients needed for good brain functioning. There is also growing evidence that certain food additives and food coloring in processed food contribute to focus and memory problems. Obese people tend to not drink enough water, which is extremely important to brain functioning. Lack of regular exercise affects mood, energy levels and cognitive ability. And so on.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:07 pm |