June 14, 2012

It Adds Up! Fat Kids are Bad at Math

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — Childhood obesity rates have risen over the past 40 years and have been associated with many health problems. Now, a new study shows that children´s weight and their math performance are linked.

The longitudinal study was conducted by researchers at University of Missouri, Columbia, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Vermont. They reviewed a national represented sample of more than 6, 250 children from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort. They tracked the lives of the children from the beginning of kindergarten through fifth grade. At five different time points, the parents provided information about their families, teachers reported on the children´s interpersonal skills and emotional well-being, and children took academic tests in addition to being weighed and measured.

Boys and girls who were continually obese from kindergarten through fifth grade performed worse on the math test, beginning in first grade, and their lower performance continued through fifth grade when compared with children who were never obese. For boys who became obese later (in third or fifth grade), there was no indication of any differences; for girls who became obese later, poorer math performance was temporary.

“These findings illustrate the complexity of relations among children´s weight status, social and emotional well-being, academics, and time,” Sara Gable, associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri, Columbia, was quoted as saying.

In girls who were persistently obese, having fewer social skills explains part of their poorer math performance. For both boys and girls that were persistently obese, sad, lonely, and anxious emotions explain part of their poorer math performance.

“Our study suggests that obesity in the early years of school, especially obesity that persists across the elementary grades, can harm children´s social and emotional well-being and academic performance,” Gable was quoted as saying.

Source: Child Development, June 2012