Obesity and Academic Performance: A Reason To Worry?

It is no news that our weight or body mass index impact our health and productivity. As a result, a lot of attention has been given to the management of weight from childhood to adulthood. Schools have incorporated physical activity into their programs at both elementary and high school levels, and organizations are also finding ways to employ exercise to improve the productivity of their employees at work.

What about homes? The parents have never been left out as doctors advised expecting mothers to watch their diet for the sake of their babies at every stage of development.  Childcare, as the duty of the parents, also includes making sure their child eat right and well to achieve the right growth and weight.

While most research work has seen a dedication to how individual BMI affects our health and socialization, there is apparently little information for parents to know if there is a relationship between academic performance and a child’s weight. Therefore this piece is written to provide information and knowledge to parents as to whether there is any need to be worried or not about their children’s academic performance with respect to their weight. In this piece, we will be looking at different researches and reports from which we will draw our conclusions. Whichever way it will go parents need to know there is always a way out and there is always a solution.

In a study conducted by Ashleshta and Roland in 2006 in examining the link between childhood weight status and elementary school performance, different results were found for both boys and girls.

In this study, the girl child that gained weight before or during elementary school showed there is a significant negative association between overweight status and academic performance while the boy child showed no significant association. The study also suggested that being overweight can promote absenteeism among boys and girls. However, the study suggested that both groups of children needed to be carefully monitored to improve their academic performance.

While Ashleshta and Roland may have focused on social interaction, Yau et al. in 2012, reported that there is an association between childhood obesity and poor academic performance by studying the structural integrity of subjects’ brain. However, this study in no way suggests a cause for alarm that warrants clinical intervention. The report is simply an indicator that general weight issues affect individual’s body functions.

A senior honors project produced by Kayla M. Naticchioni in 2013 reported a negative association between quality of food and academic performance. The study reinforced that as the quality of food decreases in terms of nutrition, chance of obesity also increases among children which also negatively affects their academic performance, self-esteem and other psychological outcomes like behavioural problems.

Carey et al. 2015, also report a significant negative association between weight status and academic performance. Carey et al. reported that overweight children have school absenteeism, repeating a grade, lower school engagement, and other school associated problems.

While all pieces of evidence above may suggest a reason to worry, the common association between them is simply the psychological evidence suffered by overweight children which may have stemmed from their relationship with other children in school.

This shows that while parents may have noticed this poor performance with their children, it is something that can easily be managed by providing more support to the children, motivating them to show more interest in attending school and physically active school programs and encouraging them to be more open about their relationships with other children in school.

Ismaheel Akinwale Bio