Interesting & Somewhat Controversial Article: Obesity Affects Math Performance

In a recent article from the website www.redorbit.com, Connie K. Ho presents the results of a study looking for correlations between obesity and academic performance.  Not very surprisingly, a correlation was found: students who are obese show sub par performance on math exams when compared to their non-obese peers.  As if we all needed one more admonition against that second piece of cake.

What was unclear was causation – many factors combine to determine if one will be overweight, including, not inconsequentially, socio-economic status.  There is a clear higher incidence of obesity among the poor, and a corresponding lack of access to academic resources or educated role models that might also contribute to math related success.  So is obesity actually the problem?

Read excerpts from the redorbit article below for more information.

The Results

In the study’s results, when students who showed symptoms of obesity beginning in kindergarten were compared with children who were never obese, these students performed poorer on math tests beginning in the first grade. The low performance on math exams persisted all the way through fifth grade. For boys whose obesity began later, like in third or fifth grade, there was no difference found in the performance on math tests. For girls who were found to become obese later on, the low performance in math was short-term.

Furthermore, girls who were consistently obese appeared to have fewer social skills and this deficiency seemed to affect their math performance. For those boys and girls who were consistently obese, they had more anxiety and appeared to be sadder and lonelier; these traits also affected their performance on math tests. Other factors may be involved as well; for example, children who are obese may miss more school days or may develop sleep apnea which could influence school performance.

But What About Causation?

Overall, the study did not find a direct cause-and-effect relationship between school performance and being overweight or obese. The project’s findings, published in a recent edition of the journal Child Development, show the necessity of combating childhood obesity. According to U.S. News, public health professionals believe that parents can help children establish better habits. It is also important for the whole family to develop better diet and exercise routines.

The article presents another interesting reason to instill in our children good health habits.

But I must admit – my math skills are going to be the last thing on my mind next time I’m contemplating a cookie.

-Kristen

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