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Why I Ain't the Sharpest Tool in the Shed

Monday, September 17, 2012

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/
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Just wait awhile and the newest theories will change. Round and round we go. This definitely does seem to have a bias against obesity, which has sadly, been with us for a very long time. It just got dressed up in scientific garb today.
    2962 days ago
    Great stuff as always. As a fellow scientist, I share your skepticism as well as your concern. As with most of these types of studies, there seems to be a lot more to the story.
    2964 days ago
    brought back memories of English Class in High school. great blog as always had to read it a couple of times before i left a message me ans commas never got along in English class
    2964 days ago
    Oh my gosh "commas, they save lives," just about the most hilarious thing I've read in a while.
    2964 days ago
    Here's the original article:


    Really alarming. The idea that young kids can be developing problems that have always been considered diseases of old age tells you that our food supply is disastrous.
    2964 days ago

    Comment edited on: 9/17/2012 11:14:44 PM
    I can't resist! I tried but I can't. I found a typo.
    "... now matter how much Sparking we do and notwithstanding..."
    2965 days ago
  • POPSY190
    Let's hope some of us fall within the exception-to-the-rule category! Plenty to think about here.
    2965 days ago
    Very interesting. Another thing I can blame on my Mom. Oh wait, I was a skinny kid. What excuse do I have then. More studies needed.
    2965 days ago
    Dude, you'll be happy to know that ending a sentence with a preposition is actually taught as standard English now-a-days. It's also where it's at. :)
    2965 days ago
    thanks for the info, and I thought that all my cognitive problems was from M.S. boy won't my neurologist love that one!
    2965 days ago
  • MARYANN2323
    And just think, if you were a svelte child growing up, you could be heading NASA as we speak!
    2965 days ago
    Interesting study. Regardless, I'm just limping along towards goal...
    2965 days ago
    Interesting study, I think I would probably need more info. But it's at least something to think about, maybe to even help get a conversation started about the effects of being obese. Thanks for sharing.
    2965 days ago
    This is a very interesting study!
    2965 days ago
    Interesting blog and equally interesting replies...this is one of those blogs that I think I will need to check back on....for the fascinating comments.
    2965 days ago
    Given what many of my students have looked like over the years, that study is scary!
    2965 days ago
    I'm not in the least surprised:

    "With metabolic syndrome, the brain has trouble efficiently processing its main source of energy, glucose, said Dr. Convit, professor of psychiatry and medicine at NYU School of Medicine and a member of the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research in Orangeburg, N.Y."

    One of the reasons that severely limiting carbohydrate intake improves metabolic syndrome markers is that it forces the body to use ketones for fuel rather than glucose.

    That's also why ketogenic diets are now being prescribed for Alzheimer's patients. When the brain no longer is able to utilize glulcose it is still often able to fuel itself on ketones. Check out this brand:


    There's every indication that ketosis is actually our natural energy state - our bodies are not ideally suited to running on glucose 24/7.
    2965 days ago
  • CMW123
    Love that comma quote.

    As for the study, I am skeptical.
    2965 days ago
  • NEWMOM20121
    Love the blog.
    All I keep thinking is you could have taken over the world had you not been a cubby teen.

    Thank you for sharing.
    2965 days ago
    This is an important blog! At the very least, as a parent, we are fole models du jour for our kids, yes . . . even when they're teens and think we are completely brainless.

    To me it really is alarming that so many of our teens are showing signs of metabolic syndrome. As parents, we cannot control what goes into our kids' mouths 24/7, but it is withing our pervue to be sure that the food we buy for them to eat is healthy as it can be.

    Activity . . . this is a continuing discussion in our house. My DD 17 is constantly electronically entertained and inert! Slowly, I am getting through to her that if she does even 15 minutes of activity a day, she'll feel better. She's catching on.

    Thank you for sharing this information in your own good fashion! Never knew a comma could save a life, but guess it can!!

    2965 days ago
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