Study links obesity to health and learning problems in kids

January 23, 2013

Los Angeles – Overweight and obese children are more likely to have multiple medical, mental or developmental conditions, suggests a new study from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Using the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health, researchers analyzed data on almost 43,300 children 10-17 years old, according to the study abstract. Fifteen percent of the children were overweight (classified as having a body mass index between the 85th and 95th percentiles) and 16 percent were obese (BMI in the 95th percentile or greater).

Obese children were almost twice as likely as non-overweight children to have three or more conditions such as poor health; emotional and behavioral problems; grade repetition; missed school days; depression; learning disabilities; bone, joint and muscle problems; asthma; and headaches, according to a UCLA press release. The risk was 1.3 times higher for overweight children.

Researchers said it is unclear whether obesity causes the conditions or the conditions contribute to obesity. However, they recommended that prevention efforts target social and environmental factors and that children undergo screening for the conditions.

The study was published in the January issue of the journal Academic Pediatrics.