YOUNG, FAT AND HAPPY – BUT NOT DUMB

Ready for the next kick in the fat ass?  There is a new study on teens, which claims being fat “impairs” their brains!

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/08/28/peds.2012-0324.full.pdf+html

First, this is a tiny study (111 participants).  And while they claim to make all kinds of “matches”, I don’t see how anyone can look at 111 teens and come up with any statistically significant information on anything, much less something as subjective as how their teen brains are working!

Second, in their “matching” there is nothing there about weight or BMI – however, they did use waist circumference as one of their standards for having metabolic syndrome.

Third, they list a bunch of physical differences in the brains, leading you to believe that this is significant information:

[S]maller hippocampal volumes, increased brain cerebrospinal fluid, and reductions of microstructural integrity in major white matter tracts.

But, according to a Harvard study on nutrition, hippocampal volume is not related to IQ.

http://surfer.nmr.mgh.harvard.edu/ftp/articles/caudate.pdf

And I could find no research showing any relationship between intelligence and increased brain cerebrospinal fluid, except in the extreme case of hydroencephalus.

And, not surprisingly, teens’ brains are still changing; a lot.  Teenagers’ brains are still developing, and their IQs are changing (upward or downward).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain_size

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v479/n7371/full/nature10514.html

So basically you could say, being a teenager “impairs” their brains.

And although brains tend to be somewhat gender specific when it comes to gray and white matter, it doesn’t make a difference in overall IQ.  Women tend to have more white matter and men more gray matter, but it doesn’t manifest in differences in intellectual performance.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053811904006822

And that’s only the physical structure of the brain.

Just think how being a fat teen, with the accompanying psychological stresses (self-inflicted and inflicted by others) might affect test scores in things like arithmetic, spelling, attention, and mental flexibility.

And just in case you had any doubts about what this study wants to say, read the conclusion:

CONCLUSIONS: We document lower cognitive performance and reductions in brain structural integrity among adolescents with MetS [metabolic syndrome], thus suggesting that even relatively short-term impairments in metabolism, in the absence of clinically manifest vascular disease, may give rise to brain complications. In view of these alarming results, it is plausible that obesity-associated metabolic disease, short of type 2 diabetes mellitus, may be mechanistically linked to lower the academic and professional potential of adolescents. Although obesity may not be enough to stir clinicians or even parents into action, these results in adolescents strongly argue for an early and comprehensive intervention. We propose that brain function be introduced among the parameters that need to be evaluated when considering early treatment of childhood obesity.

The inflammatory language used makes it pretty clear how the author of this research feels about fat kids; or maybe they are just hoping that neurologists can get some of those big anti-fat dollars handed out by the government and the diet industry.

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4 thoughts on “YOUNG, FAT AND HAPPY – BUT NOT DUMB

  1. hey,
    It seems you only had access to the initial abstract including the background, methods, results and conclusion. However, when I clicked on your link, I received the full paper for free. Did you know it was free or has that changed recently maybe? Anyway, there are specifics given in the paper as to how they selected subjects and the methodology of the study.
    “In sum, the specific MetS component criteria we used were (1) abdominal obesity, waist circum- ference values $90th percentile for age and gender13; the adult cutoff value (waist circumference .88 cm [females] and .102 cm [males]) was used if it was lower than the children’s cutoff value; (2) reduced HDL, serum HDL levels ,50 mg/dL (females) and ,40 mg/dL (males); (3) hypertrigly- ceridemia, serum triglyceride levels .110 mg/dL; (4) hypertension, for those ,18 years of age, blood pressure (BP) $90th percentile for age, gender, and height11; for those of $18 years of age, we used adult criteria, BP $130 mm Hg, diastolic BP $85 mm Hg; or use of antihypertensive medication; and (5) IR, a QUICKI value #0.350. An in- dividual has MetS when he/she meets criteria for at least 3/5 of the MetS components.”

    I don’t know much about this stuff, I have little experience with health studies or metabolic syndrome related “diseases” however I am aware that not everyone who suffers from a stroke, heart disease or diabetes is in fact obese. There are very thin people who suffer from these afflictions. I also agree to the common sense knowledge that the BMI means relatively little to anyone who’s done any research on health or the history of the chart itself. I strongly agree that the language used in the abstract’s conclusion is inflammatory and think it’s likely that there are sinister pharmaceutical financial gains at play.

    Thank you for providing us with so much info.

    • Thanks – I need to edit the post. In working on the blog, I found the full study online, and then forgot to go back and correct that text.

  2. As a fat teen, I led my class, even getting the highest ACT score in school and getting an award from the county for it (not to toot my own horn or anything). Just imagine how much smarter I could’ve been if I wasn’t fat! Err…

    Sarcasm aside, imo the authors need to think twice about their conflation of “metabolic syndrome” with obesity, since there are plenty of fat people without those symptoms and thin people with them…

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