Childhood Obesity and Academic Performance

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This paper will explore the relationship between the weight of students and the decline of academics in overweight student populations. This paper will look into the history of school nutrition, school health education, and school physical education and the changes that may have occurred over the last several decades. This paper will explore elements of the past that started the epidemic; elements of the present that currently fuel the epidemic, and current and future solutions to the obesity epidemic. It also seeks to understand why it seems to affect academic performance negatively and if there could be other causes.


I investigated the weight and nutrition of students in relationship to their academics in overweight student populations. In addition, I sought to evaluate the influence of 2.5 month-long student nutrition journals. I predict that the awareness of the food that the students that have poor diets will be associated with lower academic performances. Moreover, I expect the students will be able to relate academic performance to health choices.


23 students (Male: 10; Female: 13) were recruited to take part in this project. All students were introduced to the study in identical ways. Grades and a food journal were given by each student a week prior to starting the study. The students were asked to document their diets and their grades, every week, for 2.5 months.


Participants that documented unhealthy diets were proven to have lower test scores than participants with healthy diets. Some participants that initially started with unhealthy diets, changed their diets, and saw improvement with their academics.


Childhood obesity is a current health problem in the United States and this paper will focus on school age children. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) a Body Mass Index (BMI) measured at or above the 85th percentile- but below the 95th percentile- is considered overweight. If a child is at or above the 95th percentile, the CDC classifies a child as obese. If a child’s BMI reaches above the 105th percentile, that child is considered morbidly obese. Childhood obesity rates in the United States have increased yearly and thirty percent of children have a BMI that is considered overweight. The physical effects of being overweight or obese are well documented, but is there a connection between obesity and academic achievement? This question can be expanded by exploring if schools are compounding the problem with calorie-dense lunches, lack of physical education programs, and failure to address health promotion and awareness.

Differences in Student Performance

The consequences of poor diet in children with relation to their academic performance can be severe. Not every school is able to do enough to ensure students get adequate nutrition from their meals. The reasons for schools not offering adequate nutrition are varied, but no matter the reasons, the consequences are the same. Poor nutrition does lower academics, and there is a strong correlation between how poor a child’s diet is, and how poorly his or her academic performance becomes.

The Current State of Physical Education

Most children are not getting the recommended amount of exercise. Exercise can be vigorous play for smaller children or structured sports and exercise programs for older children. Smaller children need to play sixty minutes per day, and older children should be active at least 150 minutes per week according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). That just isn’t happening in every school, children are not being offered the opportunity to be active. Overweight and obese children who do have the opportunity to enroll in physical education often do not. When they do, they are often discriminated against in group activities based on their appearance. Because of harsh physical punishments and taunting, obese children withdraw from their peers during gym activities, fearing further embarrassing situations they choose not to participate.

A Problem with Depression

An overweight or obese child may have similar academics to a slim child, the reason is that both students eat a high fat diet. As noted earlier, nutrition can reduce brain plasticity and impair function leading to poor test scores. However, teachers and peers may perceive that the obese child more unmotivated, and that is why his or her grades are not as good as those of his or her peers. That line of thinking is false. Youth with healthy body weights but high levels of interstitial fat have equally low grades; but are not as likely to be judged as lazy.

Unfair judgments may cause a student to withdraw which can be further construed as a lack of motivation. All of these negative elements can damage a child mentally and emotionally leading to depression. Depression is a major concern for overweight and obese youth of any age but especially for adolescents. It is common for obese and overweight youth to show signs of depression early and to become progressively more withdrawn as they age. Many of them suffer from chronic health problems that keep them out of the classroom.

They are prone to orthopedic issues which cause them pain as well as immobility that deepens depression. Their immune systems are weakened so they have more colds and flues, as well as other issues that cause them to lose time in school. Social withdrawal and depression lead to unintended consequences for teens. Teens skip class to avoid peers and teachers which lowers grades and impacts graduation. Obese and overweight students have a higher rate of high school dropout than their peers because of depression, social anxiety, and social withdrawal.

Modern Solutions

Reforming school lunch is a long and slow process. Students must now choose a vegetable, fruit, entrée, and milk with each lunch in elementary schools. In middle schools and high schools the students must be given a choice to have these foods, they are not, however, required to put them on their tray. Other school systems have modified their vending machines to serve healthy options.1 More schools are also “cooking” again, not just heating prepackaged food. The meals are healthier; they contain lower saturated fat, sodium, and preservatives but; they also contain higher values of dietary fiber, calcium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin E.

Educate For The Future

Health promotion in schools is slowly evolving to focus on creating better education and awareness programs. Health promotion professionals recognize that simply raising health awareness is useless if students do not have knowledge of how to be healthy. Health promoters are currently working with education professionals to craft nutrition education, health education, and physical education in areas that had previously stripped schools of those programs. They are also serving as liaisons to the community and fundraising strategists for schools as part of their efforts to implement new programs. This is especially common in rural and poor areas, where the school may need to build relationships with businesses or apply for non-federal funds to buy current textbooks, teaching supplies, and even hire qualified teachers.


In conclusion, there are a lot of factors that are leading children toward obesity and declining academics. It does seem that academic decline starts with poor nutrition and further declines as the student gains weight. But simply being overweight or obese is not the only reason for a student’s academic fall, for an obese student may well be poorly nourished with the attendant brain problems explained in this paper. And as for the growing obesity epidemic itself, it is another perfect storm of factors that students may have little to no control over.

For example: a student may not get to choose if he/she walks or rides to school, or if their school has proper health, nutrition, and physical education programs. Students do not choose if their district or state has the money to hire and train teachers, and students are likely not doing the grocery shopping for the family. Things like lunch may not even be in a student’s control. If students do not receive education on health and nutrition, it is not entirely their fault if they make poor lunch choices.

They may simply not have the knowledge to be healthy and active, which makes them vulnerable to obesity, sickness, and possible academic struggles. There do seem to be positive signs, listed in this paper were examples of success. Modern education can influence students away from the classroom. The lack of education about their own bodies may be one of the most damaging things society can do to a child. Indeed, it can be said that ignorance is the cause of our students’ physical and mental decline, and if society can enrich and strengthen the body, the mind will follow. Having the students involved and


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Cite this paper

Childhood Obesity and Academic Performance. (2021, Apr 19). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/childhood-obesity-and-academic-performance/



Does education play a role in obesity?
Yes, education plays a significant role in obesity as individuals with higher levels of education are more likely to have knowledge about healthy eating habits and engage in regular physical activity, leading to lower rates of obesity. On the other hand, individuals with lower levels of education may have limited access to healthy food options and lack knowledge about proper nutrition, contributing to higher rates of obesity.
How does childhood obesity affect academic performance?
There is a strong correlation between childhood obesity and lower academic performance. This is likely due to the fact that obesity can lead to health problems that make it difficult to focus and pay attention in school.
What are 4 negative effects of childhood obesity?
1. Obesity can lead to a number of health problems in children, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. 2. Childhood obesity can also lead to social and emotional problems, such as bullying, low self-esteem, and depression.
What are 5 consequences of childhood obesity?
Childhood unhealthy weights may result in serious medical problems in childhood such as: type 2 diabetes . high blood pressure and elevated blood cholesterol. liver disease.
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