A study from the Medical University of South Carolina found a link between adolescent obesity and decreased learning. And because teens are still in the development stage, losing weight can at least stop the trend and even possibly reverse it to some degree.
A decline in learning, as evidenced by IQ test scores, is due to a condition known as adolescent sleep apnea. As in adults, obese children with this condition actually stop breathing while they sleep. While each episode can only last up to 10 seconds, it can occur hundreds of times each night in a child with this condition.
Studies have found that the decline in learning is due to two outcomes of interrupted breathing: lack of oxygen to the brain and lack of quality sleep. When the child is not breathing, oxygen does not enter the lungs, it enters the bloodstream and is distributed to the brain. With a lack of oxygen over time, damage to existing brain tissue can occur and affect later brain development. The cause of sleep apnea can be an excess of fat in the throat or enlarged tonsils that cut the airway.
With a child who wakes up hundreds of times each night, he is not getting quality sleep even though he may be getting the correct number of hours. This further affects their learning performance because they go to school tired the next day and cannot focus on learning.
And then there is the emotional side of learning. Social distress also affects learning in obese adolescents. Because obese children “don’t fit in,” normal-weight children tend to tease, tease, or even intimidate them. This constant teasing causes immeasurable emotional problems, of which the decline in learning is only one. With low self-esteem and self-esteem constantly haunting them, concentrating on learning in school is the furthest thing on their mind. Many can no longer bear being ostracized from their peers and end up taking their own lives.
The researchers found that the decline in learning can start as early as kindergarten and appears to be more prevalent in girls than boys. They also found that obese teens are less likely to attend any type of post-secondary education. And it all starts with being an obese child.
If you have an obese adolescent, help them relearn by looking for a diet and exercise program approved by your child’s healthcare provider. Be a part of ending the emotional stress and poor grades caused by your child’s obesity. Get them actively relearning.