Lifestyle intervention for improving school achievement in overweight or obese children and adolescents

Martin, A. , Saunders, D. H., Shenkin, S. D. and Sproule, J. (2014) Lifestyle intervention for improving school achievement in overweight or obese children and adolescents. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews(3), CD009728. (doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD009728.pub2) (PMID:24627300)

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Many children and adolescents worldwide are overweight or obese. Children and adolescents who are overweight or obese have increased physical disease and emotional distress. They also perform less well on tests of thinking (cognitive ability), and they do less well in school. To prevent and treat obesity, several lifestyle changes have been suggested, for example, being more physically active, eating fewer calories and sitting less. These interventions are known to improve thinking skills and school achievement in children of normal weight. It is unknown whether the effects are the same in overweight or obese children and adolescents. The review authors searched for studies that evaluated school achievement, cognitive ability and later life achievement (e.g. income, employment) in overweight or obese children and adolescents randomly assigned to a lifestyle intervention (aiming to being more physically active and/or improving diet and/or sitting less) or a control condition (e.g. standard care, no treatment). We found six relevant studies with a total of 674 overweight and obese children. We found that, compared with standard school routine, school-based interventions targeting healthy diet and lifestyle education led to small improvements in overall school achievement in overweight or obese children. We also found that increasing physical activity improved scores on tests of mathematics and memory, and improved 'problem-solving' thinking skills. No clear evidence was found of an effect on other thinking skills related to reading, language or vocabulary. We found no studies that looked at whether lifestyle interventions affected achievements after leaving school. Overall, despite the large number of childhood obesity treatment studies, only a select few evaluated the effects of obesity treatment on school achievement and cognitive function. The existing studies are limited in quality but suggest that lifestyle interventions could benefit overweight and obese children specifically in overall school achievement, mathematics, memory and specific thinking skills. Health policy makers may wish to consider these potential additional benefits when promoting physical activity and healthy eating in schools. Future obesity treatment studies could consider academic and cognitive as well as physical outcomes.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Martin, Dr Anne
Authors: Martin, A., Saunders, D. H., Shenkin, S. D., and Sproule, J.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
ISSN (Online):1469-493X

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