How Childhood Obesity, Nutrition and Related Health Problems Affect Learning Ability


It’s said that health is wealth, and that’s especially true in childhood. The modern struggles that many children face of not receiving optimal nutrition while also being obese can be ultimately detrimental to their health and many other facets of childhood, including how well they are able to concentrate and learn.

Potential Health Risks
Kids who are obese may be at a greater risk of health problems than children who are able to maintain an average weight. Among the potential health risks are heart disease, asthma, sleep apnea, and Type 2 diabetes. This correlation is not necessarily causation, though, as children who are obese may also often be at risk because of otherwise unhealthy environments.

Furthermore, children who are dealing with obesity are often stressed because of bullying and other negative social interactions that can plague a child in a society that judges fat more harshly than most other physical attributes. This stress can contribute to a suppressed immune system and further problems with concentration and motivation to learn. That can even lead to depression, so bullying should always be taken seriously, with a zero tolerance attitude about bullying overweight kids.

Self-Esteem for Learning
Obese kids who are very bright sometimes lose motivation to learn. This may be caused from low self-esteem that can easily develop when children are isolated from their peers and mocked for their weight. If they lose interest in school from depression, it can be hard to engage them in caring about their education.

Physical fitness has been linked to higher achievement. Whether that is because those kids are often encouraged more by their peers and instructors, or because they have greater self-esteem, isn’t clear. The fact is that the odds are stacked against the success of obese kids in traditional learning environments, so educators have to take this problem seriously and work to counter the potentially negative influence in a child’s life.

Diets Aren’t the Answer
Simply putting obese children on a diet is not the solution. Not only can dieting at a young age lead children on the dangerous path to eating disorders, it can be hard for children to get adequate nutrition on a calorie-restricted diet. Restricting a child’s calories can also bring out a sense of rebelliousness, causing them to ultimately gain even more weight.

What Can Be Done
Combatting obesity, nutritional problems, and health issues that can result from a combination of these things is difficult to do. These issues are complex and multi-faceted, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer. What we do know is that children should be encouraged to eat healthy, whole foods, and movement is important. Schools can provide nutritionally dense meals and activities. If any student is perceived to be in danger, delicately discussing the problem with parents is in order, but children should never be shamed for their size.

Finally, it’s undeniable that obesity, poor nutrition, and related health problems may have a big impact on a child’s ability to concentrate and learn. The best solution is to make sure that children are fed healthy, balanced meals and they get moving as often as possible. Providing a healthy balance of nutritious meals, activity, and focused education can be the best way to combat any past issues that malnutrition, obesity, or other health problems have caused. If you think a child is at risk, get the advice of a pediatrician as soon as possible.

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