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Critically Speaking

Aug 21, 2019

When we think of the obesity epidemic, we tend to focus on the risks of various diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease and many others that we discussed in an earlier podcast episode with Dr. Hugh Waters of the Milken Institute.  But evidence emerging from a number of studies suggest that obesity can affect cognition and educational performance, even at a young age.  In this episode, Dr. Nan Li, of the Institute for Environment and Society at Brown University discusses her work on the relationship between obesity and cognitive performance in young school children.  


Key Takeaways:   

  • Earlier reports suggest that obese adolescents don't perform as well in school or on cognitive tests.  But at this age, other factors, such as depression from bullying, could influence this pattern. 
  • Dr. Li and associates examined IQ and cognition in even younger children and found that these cognitive decrements also occur at an earlier age. 
  • While the causes of this association are unknown, the pattern has been reported more than once and has serious implications for the futures of young individuals with obesity and for the society in which they will grow up. 


"Many studies show that the maternal obesity, especially pre-pregnancy BMI, maternal education level, and smoking are associated with children’s cognitive performance later on." —  Dr. Nan Li  


Connect with Dr. Nan Li:   



Connect with Dr. Therese Markow:  



Twitter: @CritiSpeak