Purpose: To provide commentary on the research article “Impact of Pediatric Obesity on Grades in Elementary School,” by Craig A. Johnston, Jennette P. Moreno, Sandra A. Stansberry, and Deborah Woehler .

Findings: In this cross-sectional study the authors examine the association between weight status and math, science and reading grades among 798 2nd grade children in Texas. The authors show that academic performance, specifically math grades are lower in obese students compared to normal weight students. Finally, the authors propose several physiological and psychological mechanisms including the potential for teacher bias and lower expectations from children who are obese.

Conclusion: While there are a few studies that have evaluated the relationship between weight status and academic performance in children, the mechanisms behind this relationship remains unclear. This research article raises several questions for the future including the need for understanding the psychosocial factors including the potential for teacher bias with respect to academic expectations from children based on their weight status. Given the high prevalence of childhood obesity, we need to clearly understand the mediators and moderators and the pathways of this relationship between obesity and academic achievement. Lower academic achievement through formal education can have significant economic ramifications in the years to come. We have to find these stop gaps, strengthen the systems for not just obesity prevention but also sensitivity against discrimination by weight status, and break the cycle to maximize the intellectual potential in our children.

Key Take Away Points

- Johnston et al provide important insight into the impact of childhood obesity on academic achievement among 2nd grade children in Texas, and the results are consistent across other studies.

- The mechanisms that drive this relationship between are poorly understood and could have long-term consequences on the child.

- There is a need to understand these mechanisms and take necessary steps to address these disparities in academic achievement by weight status.

Author Biography

Dr Shreela Sharma is Assistant Professor in the Division of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences, and a faculty member of the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Health Living at the University of Texas, School of Public Health in Houston. Dr. Sharma is a behavioral epidemiologist with interest in design, implementation and evaluation of nutrition and physical activity-based interventions to prevent obesity via preschool, school, family and community based approaches, predominantly in low-income minority populations. Dr. Sharma also has international research collaborations with the Public Health Foundation of India and the World Economic Forum on type 2 diabetes prevention in the Indian subcontinent. A strong advocate for childhood obesity prevention, Dr. Sharma serves on the Mayor of Houston’s Go Healthy Houston Task Force aimed at obesity prevention in Houston. Dr. Sharma has a PhD in Epidemiology and is a registered and licensed dietitian in the state of Texas.


The author would like to acknowledge the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living for their support.



A Response To:

Impact of Pediatric Obesity on Grades in Elementary School by Craig A. Johnston, Jennette P. Moreno, Tzu-an Chen, Sandra A. Stansberry, and Deborah Woehler.