The Sacramento Bee reports:
A lack of social acceptance could account for the lower test scores, researchers said. Obese children who do not feel accepted by their peers often exhibit feelings of loneliness, sadness and anxiety that can hinder their academic performance.
Those feelings became even more apparent as the children progressed through school, according to the study.
“Children who have weight problems are not as well-received by their peers. That creates a condition or situation where developing social skills isn’t as easy,” said Sara Gable, the study’s lead author and an associate professor in the department of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri, Columbia.
For girls, but not for boys, difficulty developing social skills was related to obesity.
“The stigma of obesity and lack of conformity to standards of physical appearance – girls are perhaps … no pun intended, feeling the weight of that more,” Gable said…
For their study, the researchers analyzed data tracking 6,250 children nationwide from kindergarten through fifth grade. They compared the academic performance of students who were obese in kindergarten or first grade and remained so through fifth grade with children who were never obese. The data also included teacher reports of children’s interpersonal skills and feelings such as sadness or loneliness.
When children were tested one-on-one in math, those who were obese began scoring lower than their peers in first grade, the study found. The timing suggests that the relationship between obesity and poor academic performance takes root as children progress in school, Gable said.