Childhood obesity linked to math performance, researcher says

June 14, 2012

In a longitudinal study of 6,250 children from across the US, researchers found that, when compared with children who were never obese, boys and girls whose obesity persisted from the start of kindergarten through fifth grade performed worse on the math test, starting in first grade, and their lower performance continued through fifth grade. Their findings are based on data gathered on children's families, interpersonal skills and emotional well-being, weight and measurements, and test performance.

Childhood obesity has increased dramatically throughout the past 40 years and has been tied to many health problems. Now, a University of Missouri researcher has found that children's weight is associated with their math performance.

"The findings illustrate the complex relationships among children's weight, social and emotional well-being, academics and time," said Sara Gable, associate professor in the MU Department of Nutrition and , who led the study.

Gable looked at more than 6,250 children from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort, a nationally . The children were followed from the time they started kindergarten through fifth grade. At five points in time, parents provided information about their families, teachers reported on the children's interpersonal skills and emotional well-being, and children were weighed and measured; they also took academic tests.

When compared with children who were never obese, boys and girls whose obesity persisted from the start of kindergarten through fifth grade performed worse on the math tests, starting in . Their lower performance continued through fifth grade. For boys whose obesity emerged later—in third or fifth grade—no such differences were found. For girls who became obese later, poorer was temporary.

In addition, for girls who were persistently obese, having fewer social skills explained some part of their poorer math performance. For both boys and girls who were persistently obese, feeling sadder, lonelier and more anxious also explained some of their poorer math performance.

"Our study suggests that , especially obesity that persists throughout the elementary grades, can harm children's social and emotional well-being and academic performance," Gable said.

Explore further: Study: Kindergarten friendships matter, especially for boys

More information: The study, "Boys' and Girls' Weight Status and Math Performance from Kindergarten Entry through Fifth Grade: A Mediated Analysis," was published in the journal Child Development.

Related Stories

Study: Kindergarten friendships matter, especially for boys

November 29, 2011

High-quality friendships in kindergarten may mean that boys will have fewer behavior problems and better social skills in first and third grades, said Nancy McElwain, a University of Illinois associate professor of human ...

Recommended for you

Yo-yo dieting might cause extra weight gain

December 5, 2016

Repeated dieting may lead to weight gain because the brain interprets the diets as short famines and urges the person to store more fat for future shortages, new research by the universities of Exeter and Bristol suggests.

New target receptor discovered in the fight against obesity

November 25, 2016

The team of scientists from King's College London and Imperial College London tested a high-fat diet, containing a fermentable carbohydrate, and a control diet on mice and looked at the effect on food intake of those with ...

Does where you live affect what you weigh?

November 21, 2016

Adult obesity rates in the United States have reached epidemic proportions, with one in four people considered obese. Yet, obesity rates vary considerably across states and counties.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.