Does Obesity Plus Diabetes Equal Learning Disability?

Filed under: Medical Conditions, In The News, Day Care & Education, Special Needs, Development: Big Kids, Development: Tweens, Development: Teens

Ever feel like everyone's picking on the fat kid?

Childhood obesity is such a national concern, with seemingly everyone -- including first lady Michelle Obama -- talking about it, that overweight kids must be getting tired of all the attention.

And now they're being told being fat could make them learning disabled.

Heaping an extra helping of bad news on their plates, WebMD reports being a chubby teen can lead to Type 2 diabetes which, in turn, can lead to a learning disability.

A study on the link between diabetes and learning was published online in Diabetologia.

"This is the first report to show that the brain is a site of complications among kids with Type 2 diabetes," Antonio Convit, professor of psychiatry and medicine at the New York University Langone Medical Center, tells the website. "Obesity in adolescents can lead to Type 2 diabetes, which increases risk of mortality, but now we know that these children's brains are not working as effectively as they should be either and their ability to do well in school is also impaired."

A total of 18 chubby children -- some with Type 2 diabetes, others without -- underwent extensive testing. The children with diabetes performed worse on memory and spelling tasks, as well as on tests of their overall intellectual functioning.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans also showed changes in the white matter of the brains of obese children with diabetes, the study showed.

There are lot of unanswered questions, Convit tells WebMD, but the link between diabetes and the brain is evident.

"We know the brain uses sugar as source of metabolism, and insulin resistance interferes with the body's ability to get more juice or sugar into the brain," he says.

Similar findings have been seen in adults with diabetes, but the cognitive changes were thought to be the result of vascular disease in their brains.

The next step is to try to determine if this damage can be reversed by treating the insulin resistance.

"Fitness is the best way to improve insulin resistance," Convit says. "These kids need to exercise and with exercise, weight loss will come."

Related: Michelle Obama Releases Childhood Obesity Recommendations

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.