MU researcher links childhood obesity, math skills

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 | 8:58 a.m. CDT; updated 2:11 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 19, 2012

COLUMBIA — An MU researcher reports she has found a link between childhood obesity and poor math skills.

Sara Gable is an associate professor in the university's Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. Her research followed more than 6,250 children from kindergarten through fifth grade.

Gable found that both boys and girls considered obese in kindergarten performed worse on math tests starting in first grade. Fewer gaps were seen in children who became obese when they were older.

She concluded the poor math performance was connected in part to feelings of sadness, loneliness and other shortcoming in social skills.

The study was published in the journal Child Development. Gable collaborated with researchers from the University of Vermont and the University of California, Los Angeles.


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Ray Shapiro June 19, 2012 | 9:52 p.m.

A new Learning Disability?
("The study's findings persisted across demographic differences, including race, household income, maternal educational attainment and employment status, and parental expectations for their child's educational achievement.")
("For girls, but not for boys, difficulty developing social skills was related to obesity.")
("Even though the study could not account for potential bias among teachers, their observations of obese boys and girls were consistent across grades and schools, Gable said.")
("Other factors related to obesity -- such as health conditions that interfere with learning or school attendance -- could affect academic performance as well and merit further study, she added.")

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