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Obesity's Impact on Cognitive Development in Children

by Susan McCammon, studioD

Young children need to eat a wide variety of foods to ensure healthy physical and intellectual development. The National Library of Medicine website states that good eating habits should start at infancy because poor nutrition causes diseases like obesity. Obesity, a condition where a person has more than average fat, negatively affects cognitive development among children.

Pregnancy Obesity

According to Europe PubMed, maternal pregnancy obesity may negatively affect fetus’ brain development. To test this hypothesis, Rika Tanda et al. carried out a study involving 3,412 children aged between 60 and 83 months, as Europe PubMed Central reports. Results from the study indicated that there was a significant link between maternal pregnancy obesity and low child cognitive scores. The researchers could not link the low cognitive scores to other factors such as family background and child factors, as they had sufficiently controlled these variables.

Brain Impairment

Researchers from the American Academy of Pediatrics have found out that the occurrence of metabolic syndrome and obesity is likely to cause structural brain impairment. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, Po Lai Yau et al. conducted a study among 129 adolescent children to find out the consequences of brain MetS. Results from the study indicated that non-diabetic adolescents with MetS had a lower IQ and scored lower in spelling and arithmetic tests than those without MetS.

Cognition Control

Obesity may negatively impact cognition control in children. In a study published in the Cerebral Cortex Journal, Hillman et al. examined the relationship between obesity and cognition control in preadolescent children. Results from the study indicated that obese children had a longer reaction time than the healthy weight children. The researchers state that this means childhood obesity is a likely cause of decreased ability to regulate the cognitive control network, which is responsible for monitoring action.


The health condition of an expectant mother greatly affects the unborn child as it directly derives sustenance from the mother. This implies that a pregnant mother’s ill health is likely to hamper the fetus’ development. According to Discovery News, maternal obesity and diabetes may cause autism in children. One probable reason is that when a woman is obese during pregnancy, she develops more resistance to insulin and has higher levels of chronic inflammation. “When more proteins linked with inflammation cross the placenta” they may negatively affect a baby’s normal brain development, reports Discovery News.

About the Author

Susan McCammon began writing in 1997. Her work has been published in various online publications. She is a teacher and educator with experience teaching first grade, special education and working with children ages 0 to 3. McCammon holds a Ph.D in Psychology from University of South Carolina.

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