Teenage obesity linked to poor academic attainment

Teenage girls who are obese are proven to have less academic attainment, study shows. (AP Photo)

A recently released study found that teenage girls classified as obese have poorer academic attainment throughout their teenage years than do those teenagers maintaining healthy weights.

The study, conducted by Strathclyde, Dundee, Georgia and Bristol Universities, studied almost 6,000 teenagers from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Researchers measured the academic attainment of these teenagers against their body mass index.

Of the 6,000 teenagers, 71.4% were healthy weight (1,935 male; 2,325 female), 13.3% overweight (372 male; 420 female) and 15.3% obese (448 male; 466 female). The results showed that associations between academic attainment and obesity were less apparent in boys.

Results showed that 466 teenage girls classified as obese had lower academic attainment at ages 11, 13 and 16 when compared to those of a healthy weight. Academic attainment in major subjects like English, science and math for obese teenage girls was lower by a whole grade amount, equivalent to a D instead of a C.

Dr. Josie Booth, from the School of Psychology at the University of Dundee, said, “There is a clear pattern which shows that girls who are in the obese range are performing more poorly than their counterparts in the healthy weight range throughout their teenage years.”

Professor John Reilly, from the University of Strathclyde, said, “Further work is needed to understand why obesity is negatively related to academic attainment, but it is clear that teenagers, parents and policymakers in education and public health should be aware of the lifelong educational and economic impact of obesity.”

Researchers also took into consideration other factors like mental health, IQ and socioeconomic deprivation, but these factors did not affect the association between academic attainment and obesity.

This study was released just days after another study was published in the journal “Cerebral Cortex” showing that obese children are less able to solve problems than are children with healthy weights.

This study is considered the most comprehensive study yet to analyze the relation between teenage obesity and academic attainment. The results have been published in the “International Journal of Obesity.” 

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