Adiposity and Physical Activity Are Not Related to Academic Achievement in School-Aged Children

Department of Psychology, Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, LA 70402, USA.
Journal of developmental and behavioral pediatrics: JDBP (Impact Factor: 2.13). 05/2012; 33(6):486-94. DOI: 10.1097/DBP.0b013e31825b849e
Source: PubMed


To investigate the hypotheses that in elementary school students: (1) adiposity and academic achievement are negatively correlated and (2) physical activity and academic achievement are positively correlated.
Participants were 1963 children in fourth to sixth grades. Adiposity was assessed by calculating body mass index (BMI) percentile and percent body fat and academic achievement with statewide standardized tests in 4 content areas. Socioeconomic status and age were control variables. A subset of participants (n = 261) wore an accelerometer for 3 days to provide objective measurement of physical activity. In addition, the association between weight status and academic achievement was examined by comparing children who could be classified as "extremely obese" and the rest of the sample, as well as comparing children who could be classified as normal weight, overweight, or obese. Extreme obesity was defined as ≥1.2 times the 95th percentile.
The results indicated that there were no significant associations between adiposity or physical activity and achievement in students. No academic achievement differences were found between children with BMI percentiles within the extreme obesity range and those who did not fall within the extreme obesity classification. In addition, no academic achievement differences were found for children with BMI percentiles within the normal weight, overweight, or obese ranges.
These results do not support the hypotheses that increased adiposity is associated with decreased academic achievement or that greater physical activity is related to improved achievement. However, these results are limited by methodological weaknesses, especially the use of cross-sectional data.

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    • "Gunstad et al. (2008) failed to find any association between weight status and several markers of cognitive performance (including cognitive control, verbal memory, and attention) among a healthy sample of 6-to 19-year-olds (N ¼ 478). Similarly, Leblanc et al. (2012) found no impact of obesity on standardized academic tests among 1963 fourth to sixth graders. Overall, the evidence for the negative influence of childhood obesity on cognitive function remains equivocal and thus controversial. "
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    ABSTRACT: The prevalence of childhood obesity in the United States has tripled since the 1980s and is strongly linked to the early onset of several metabolic diseases. Recent studies indicate that lower cognitive function may be another complication of childhood obesity. This review considers the research to date on the role of obesity and nutrition on childhood cognition and brain health. Although a handful of studies point to a maladaptive relationship between obesity and aspects of cognitive control, remarkably little is known regarding the impact of fat mass on brain development and cognitive function. Further, missing from the literature is the role of nutrition in the obesity-cognition interaction. Nutrition may directly or indirectly influence cognitive performance via several pathways including provision of key substrates for optimal brain health, modulation of gut microbiota, and alterations in systemic energy balance. However, in the absence of malnutrition, the functional benefits of specific nutrient intake on particular cognitive domains are not well characterized. Here, we examine the literature linking childhood obesity and cognition while considering the effects of nutritional intake. Possible mechanisms for these relationships are discussed and suggestions are made for future study topics. Although childhood obesity prevalence rates in some developed countries have recently stabilized, significant disparities remain among groups based on sex and socioeconomic status. Given that the elevated prevalence of pediatric overweight and obesity may persist for the foreseeable future, it is crucial to develop a comprehensive understanding of the influence of obesity and nutrition on cognition and brain health in the pediatric population.
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    • "For adolescents, many studies reported positive associations between physical activity (PA)/cardiovascular fitness and academic performance/ attainment (Shin & So, 2012; Van Dusen, Kelder, Kohl, Ranjit, & Perry, 2011; Booth et al., 2014; Ardoy et al., 2014); whilst others found no support that greater PA improved achievement (LeBlanc et al., 2012). In terms of college students, the relationship between academic achievement and PA is in partial contrast to school children. "
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