The link between children’s cognitive skills and mothers’ weight

ACCORDING to a German research conducted over 24 years ago, how much we weigh affects our emotions. Another research has linked a child’s cognitive ability to pre-pregnancy obese status of mothers.
Zachariah Mayaka Nyamosi
Zachariah Mayaka Nyamosi

ACCORDING to a German research conducted over 24 years ago, how much we weigh affects our emotions. Another research has linked a child’s cognitive ability to pre-pregnancy obese status of mothers.

Medical researchers observed that mothers who are obese before they become pregnant are at a high risk of having children with a lower cognitive ability. The mathematics and reading scores of children aged between five and seven years measure this.

According to Dr Pamela Salsberry, a professor of nursing at Ohio State University, pre-pregnancy obesity was associated with low learning ability among children.

The study appeared in the current issue of Maternal and Child Health Journal.

Risk Factors

The researchers calculated several mothers body mass index based on their height and weight. Thereafter, their children’s cognitive ability in reading recognition and mathematics assessments was gauged based on their performance on Peabody Individual Achievement Test, a popular academic achievement procedure.

Even after controlling all other variables, the analysis showed maternal pre-pregnancy obesity was negatively associated with mathematics and reading test scores.

‘‘On average children of obese women scored poorly on reading and math than did children of healthy-weight women,’’ says Rika Tanda, lead author of the study.

The study seems to support findings from earlier studies that showed that various conditions affect childhood learning processes. In the past, psychologists have indicated how the home environment, family income and a mother’s education can affect a child’s cognitive skills. That a mother’s obesity status can negatively influence a child’s early learning capacity, is startling.

In another separate study, women who gained more than 24 kilogrammes during pregnancy (which occurred in 12 per cent of pregnancies) added an average of 147.4 additional grammes to their babies’ birth weight more than those who added 7.5 to 10 kilogrammes. In other words, women who gained 22.5 kilogrammes had a double risk of having infants with a high weight compared to those who only gained about nine kilograms.

Obesity and lower household income are well known risk factors that negatively affect childhood cognitive function.

Generally speaking, several factors that determine the cognitive abilities of children are hinged on maternal influence which ranges from education level, to diet, among other factors.

The big question is, how best can women lose or control weight in order to improve the physical and intellectual health of their children?

Keeping all other factors constant, the best possible solution would be to eat right, exercise and embrace a positive attitude towards life.

 

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