NEW YORK (CBS NEWS) – Children’s math abilities may have as much to do with their bellies as it does with their brains. A new study finds that obese children are more likely to be worse at math than their skinnier classmates.
The study, published in the June 14 issue of Child Development, involved 6,250 children from an ongoing government study that tracks kindergarteners through the time they’re in fifth grade, and reflects a nationally representative sample of kids. At five points throughout that duration, researchers gathered information from parents and teachers about children’s social skills, emotional well-being and academic abilities, along with measuring their heights and weights.
The researchers discovered that kids who were persistently obese from the start of kindergarten through fifth grade performed significantly worse on math tests by the time they reached first grade, as compared with boys and girls who were never obese. For boys whose obesity started later — in third or fifth grade — no drops in math were found, but girls who became obese at later ages showed a temporary decline in math skills.
But obesity negatively affected the children beyond their multiplication tables. The study found that girls who were persistently obese had fewer social and interpersonal skills. Boys and girls who were obese throughout the study also reported feeling sadder, lonelier and more anxious — which the researchers say could have contributed to their math performance.
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