Study links obesity in teenage girls with lower academic results

Obesity The study looked at the academic attainment of girls who were considered obese at the age of 11

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A new study suggests obesity in adolescent girls is associated with lower academic results during their teenage years.

Researchers from four universities including Strathclyde and Dundee looked at data from 6,000 adolescent girls.

They found that those classed as obese at the age of 11 achieved lower results over the next five years than peers of a healthy weight.

The team said more research was needed to establish why this was the case.

The joint study, said to be the most comprehensive of its kind, has been published in the International Journal of Obesity.

It was carried out by researchers at Strathclyde, Dundee, Georgia and Bristol universities.

'Clear pattern'

The results suggested that girls who were obese, as measured by BMI (body mass index) at age 11, had lower academic attainment at 11, 13 and 16 years when compared to those of a healthy weight.

The study took into account possible mediating factors but found that these did not affect the overall results.

Attainment in the core subjects of English, Maths and Science for obese girls was lower by an amount equivalent to a D instead of a C, which was the average in the sample.

Start Quote

Teenagers, parents, and policymaker should be aware of the lifelong educational and economic impact of obesity”

End Quote Prof John Reilly Strahclyde University

Associations between obesity and academic attainment were less clear in boys.

John Reilly, professor of physical activity and public health science at Strathclyde University and the lead investigator of the study, 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."

Dr Josie Booth, of 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."

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