Anyone who has wasted any appreciable amount of their precious Sparky free time on my poorly conceived and ill-written blogs fully knows that I am challenged with reduced cognitive skills. Getting subjects in front of predicates, without ending sentences in prepositions can be a daunting task for me. In my limited-capacity cerebrum, adding two and three and getting five only happens if I am fortunate.
Now we all know why. This morning’s Pittsburgh Post Gazette (all truths emanate from Pittsburgh – ask any Steelers fan) carried a story about a new study that links teen obesity to the diminished brain power of adolescents. It cites this month’s Journal of Pediatrics as its source. Kidding aside, this is serious stuff and fellow parents are urged to give this a look.
The study asserts that “metabolic syndrome”, defined as a group of obesity-caused risk factors including pre-diabetic insulin resistance, high blood pressure, low levels of "good" (HDL) cholesterol, high triglycerides and abdominal obesity, may:
1. Hurt the neuro-cognitive abilities and school performance of overweight teenagers; and
2. Cause physical changes in the brain.
This is all being published in the journal Pediatrics this month.
Previously, impaired brain function in obese adults was thought to be linked to vascular disease and the cumulative effect of years of poor metabolism. However, the Journal of Pediatrics article asserts that the cognitive performance of overweight children was affected even after a relatively short period of time. Cited evidence includes lower spelling and arithmetic scores, reduced mental flexibility and decreased measures of attention.
Always the skeptic about scientific assertions (somehow I became a professional scientist myself despite my profound and lifelong obesity - for those of you who do not yet know), the study purports to have controlled for age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, school grade and gender. It also allegedly filtered or corrected for biases introduced by cultural differences in diet and access to quality health care.
This wasn't a case of comparing fat vs. thin, either. In the study group without metabolic syndrome, 40 percent were overweight or obese. They may have been free of the syndrome either because of genetics or because they exercised regularly and were, therefore, more healthy. The group with metabolic syndrome had a significantly larger waist circumference and body mass index, along with other health issues. Neither group differed significantly in sleep apnea or depression, but the researchers decided to err on the side of caution and control for those symptoms -- and found the results to be largely unchanged.
Not being one to argue (much), I might extrapolate we chubby teens of the 1970s now must be the intellectual laggards of our adult compatriots, no matter how much Sparking we do and notwithstanding how successfully we might do it. Putting it another way, the die has been cast and we who found solace from teen angst in Pizza Hut pay the price for that, intellectually, physically and emotionally, each and every day for the rest of our lives. Sobering, ain’t it?
Now at age 51, it seems shocking that I even survived to be middle aged, despite having the cognitive and intellectual disadvantages of being the chubbiest kid in my grade, year in and year out. I must be just lucky, a statistical outlier, or just perhaps the study somehow found what it expected to find.
Do not think for a moment that all science is objective, but admittedly there could be something to this and fellow parents may wish to take heed.
Read more: old.post-gazette.com/pg/