A new study published today says that girls who are obese at 11 underachieve academically at 11, 13 and 16 in comparison to slimmer peers.
In the study sample, on average, obese girls achieved a grade lower than their slimmer classmates in the core subjects of English, Maths and Science.
However, the link between obesity in boys and academic achievement is not yet clear in the research carried out by the Universities of Strathclyde, Dundee, Georgia and Bristol.
The study, the most in-depth investigation into the relationship between obesity and school performance, used data on nearly 6,000 children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).
Professor John Reilly from the University of Strathclyde said: “Further work is needed to understand why obesity is negatively related to academic attainment.
“It is clear that teenagers, parents, and policy-makers in education and public health should be aware of the lifelong educational and economic impact of obesity.”
Dr Josie Booth, of the School of Psychology at the University of Dundee, said: “There is a clear pattern which shows that girls who are in the obese range are performing more poorly than their counterparts in the healthy weight range throughout their teenage years.”
This research comes just days after a study published in the journal Cerebral Cortex revealed that obese children are less able to solve problems than slim ones.
The researchers concluded that faced with basic cognitive tasks, heavier pupils were slower to answer and showed signs of having slower thought processes. This research looked at the reactions and brain activity of 74 boys and girls aged between seven and nine – half of whom had a high Body Mass Index (BMI).