Obese kids as bright as thinner peers

July 13, 2012

Obesity is not to blame for poor educational performance, according to early findings from research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). In a study that combines statistical methods with genetic information, researchers dispel the false idea that being overweight has damaging educational consequences.

Previous studies have shown that children who are heavier are less likely to do well at school. However, Dr Stephanie von Hinke Kessler Scholder from University of York argues it's vital to understand what drives this association. "We sought to test whether obesity 'directly' hinders performance due to bullying or health problems, or whether kids who are obese do less well because of other factors that are associated with both obesity and lower exam results, such as coming from a disadvantaged family," Dr Scholder explains.

Researchers examined data on almost 4,000 members of the Children of the 90s Birth Cohort Study. These data include the children's DNA. It is well known that genes are randomly allocated within a population, irrespective of factors such as socio-economic position. The researchers combined the latest developments from with statistical methodologies in economic and econometric research. Using two carefully chosen 'genetic markers', the research team was able to identify children with a slightly higher genetic pre-disposition to obesity.

"Based on a simple correlation between children's obesity as measured by their fat mass and their exam results, we found that heavier children did do slightly worse in school," Dr Scholder points out. "But, when we used children's to account for potentially other factors, we found no evidence that obesity causally affects exam results. So, we conclude that obesity is not a major factor affecting children's educational outcomes."

These findings suggest that the previously found between weight and is driven by factors that affect both weight and educational attainment. Future research should focus on other determinants of poor educational outcomes, such as social class or a family's socio-economic circumstances, Dr Scholder points out.

The finding that obesity is not a cause of poorer educational performance is, the researchers suggest, a positive thing. "Clearly there are reasons why there are differences in , but our research shows that obesity is not one of them," Dr Scholder argues.

Explore further: Is there a link between obesity, chronic illness and bullying?

Related Stories

Is there a link between obesity, chronic illness and bullying?

July 6, 2011
Children who are overweight or obese are more likely to be victimised by bullying when compared to children who are not overweight.

School climate can affect overweight children for life

April 24, 2012
Kids can be really mean – especially to other kids – and school-yard bullying can have serious immediate and long-term effects. One area of increasing concern in this regard is the possibility that overweight or ...

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 ...

Recommended for you

Shaming overweight kids only makes things worse

November 20, 2017
(HealthDay)—Overweight kids who are shamed or stigmatized are more likely to binge eat or isolate themselves than to make positive changes such as losing weight, a leading pediatricians' group says.

Link between obesity and cancer is not widely recognized

November 17, 2017
A new study published in the Journal of Public Health has shown that the majority of people in the United Kingdom do not understand the connection between weight issues and cancer. Obesity is associated with thirteen types ...

Reversing negative effects of maternal obesity

November 8, 2017
A drug that increases energy metabolism may lead to a new approach to prevent obesity in children born to overweight mothers, UNSW Sydney researchers have found.

Serving water with school lunches could prevent child, adult obesity: study

November 7, 2017
Encouraging children to drink plain water with their school lunches could prevent more than half a million youths in the U.S. from becoming overweight or obese, and trim the medical costs and indirect societal costs associated ...

Why do some obese people have 'healthier' fat tissue than others?

November 1, 2017
One little understood paradox in the study of obesity is that overweight people who break down fat at a high rate are less healthy than peers who store their fat more effectively.

Engineered protein treatment found to reduce obesity in mice, rats and primates

October 19, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers with pharmaceutical company Amgen Inc. report that an engineered version of a protein naturally found in the body caused test mice, rats and cynomolgus monkeys to lose weight. In their ...

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.