New Pediatric Research published by Nature.com investigated the cognitive impact of weight loss in obese adolescents. The link between obesity and many other medical problems is well documents, yet there has been little research on the correlation between weight loss and cognition. Thus, scientists evaluated 62 medically-obese teens before and after a 30-week program for weight loss. The teenagers were asked to complete assessments for short-term memory, selective attention, sustained attention, and perceived fatigue. Regardless of changes in BMI, the teens showed cognitive improvements following weight-loss intervention.
In a similar study published by NeuroImage, 101 obese children were recruited for evaluation of physical fitness and associated changes in gray matter. The children were assessed for muscular fitness, speed-agility, cardiorespiratory fitness, academic performance, and brain matter volume. Outcomes revealed that as cardiorespiratory fitness and speed-agility increased so did brain regions associated with academic improvement.
What does that mean for teachers, coaches, and parents of obese children and adolescents? It means we can be assured that increased physical activity and improvements in fitness will likely result in cognitive and academic enhancement, disregarding weight loss or reduction in BMI. Time to tune up that bicycle; exercise makes our kids smarter!