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'You're fat.' 'I want a second opinion.' 'You're dumb.'

According to a Yiddish proverb, " 'For example' is not proof."

But I'm relying on examples -- fat kids I've known -- to counter a new report that children who eat a junky fast-food diet suffer a loss of IQ points.

Time magazine  reports that researchers from the University of Bristol in England came to this conclusion: "Overall, kids who ate junky fast-food diets at age 3 had a small drop in IQ at age 8.5, compared with kids eating healthy foods. The association persisted even after researchers controlled for other environmental factors that can influence IQ, such as parental education level, maternal diet in pregnancy,socioeconomic status and stressful life events."

Although the study doesn't seem to draw this conclusion, the irresistible inference is that overweight kids -- disproportionately the consumers of junky fast food -- are dumber than their health-food-consuming (and thin) fellows.

This conflicts with the admittedly anecdotal evidence of a lifetime. In my experience, fat kids are disproportionately smart, and smart kids are disproportionately fat. Maybe it has something to do with time spent sitting reading.

I'm always on the lookout for fat-bashing -- including by Time magazine (see this post)  -- but this is a dramatic example. Bristol University has deprived fat kids of one of their few consolations: the knowledge that, even if the other kids are fatter, you're smarter.

I demand a recount.


Hands off our Happy Meals

Pope Benedict and children's names: Britney doesn't have a prayer

The conversation: Mixed messages for today’s schoolchildren

-- Michael McGough


Comments () | Archives (14)

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What the heck does weight have to do with intelligence? I have several overweight friends and they all have high-level IT jobs. That research sounds specious at best.


I'm not quite sure where McGough is coming from, because I’ve always felt it was the other way around. In fact, I believe I've only met maybe one really smart guy who was obese (my high school chemistry teacher). While all the other "fat" guys I've met weren't, on average, “smarter” than I am all of the engineering, physical sciences, economics, math, and philosophy professors I had in college as well as virtually every classmate I had were all skinnier or the same size I was. I’m generalizing, of course, by assuming that those subjects are complicated enough to consider teaching them would require higher than average intelligence. Speaking of generalizations, why is it then that in just about every movie the bad guy is always some skinny guy who has big some big fat dumb henchman as a bodyguard? Why is it that every guru wise guy is some skinny hermit living off of very little? Maybe today’s fat guy (Dali Lama) isn’t the fat guy of the past (Buddha). Maybe in the past if you were sitting around most likely it was your job or something to be pondering about the world around you or contemplating some strategy while everyone else had to work out in the fields. We can’t say they didn’t have problems with overeating in the past. After all, the Bible does rail against gluttony. Then again, maybe yesterday’s morbidly obese guy is really today’s overweight guy. I’m generalizing, of course, by assuming the study included ancient/historic fat guys who had totally different diets that “made them fat” versus the diets which makes up the modern day’s “fat guys”. Oh the study didn’t account for that? So maybe, possibly, could be, that it isn’t about being fat, in general, that makes your IQ go down, but rather....your diet?


I'm fat and smart... and old.


It's nice and fun to joke about what the study's authors irresistibly inferred.

However, that would do the study a disservice by moving the focus from the subject, which is whether high-calorie/low-nutrient foods negatively impact cognitive development in young children.

It is possible to have a poor diet and not be fat.


What a waste of a "journalist's" time and a spillage of cyber-ink.

"Although the study doesn't seem to draw this conclusion...." So why did the "journalist" continue with his thought, if there was no basis for it? Wouldn't he have done better to analyze the full study, see if it was valid, could be replicated.

The writer then goes on with some nyah nyah juvenalia saying fat kids are that way because they read more. If that's true, it's still not going to help them down the road when their knees give out, when they're suffering from heart disease, diabetes and a host of other obesity related ailments. Reading is great, I do plenty of it, I also rode my bike to work today.

happy ziggy

Cross Country runners historically have the highest GPA of all high school and college athletes.


I know this is just a generalization, but the only athletes whom I met so far at my college who are on the pre-med track are cross country girl runners. Why is that?

Anyways, this study certainly will not make obese children have a better image of themselves.


Happy Ziggy is completely right, a lot of my friends at my high school are in cross country and they are all so driven and as a group so much sharper. I wonder if there has ever been a study on the concrete reasons as to why this is so?


Dear Michael,

If indeed it is true that 1) bad diet causes IQ loss and 2) bad diet strongly correlates with being fat - this in no way is saying anything about how the IQ's of fat kids compare to those who are not fat. While I don't know if this is the case - it could be true that fat people are for some reason smarter than non-fat folks. Well, all this study is then saying is that they would be even more smarter (forget grammar for a second) than the non-fat folks.


But wait, there's more!

Get it? Waiting, marshmallows...


I demand an IQ count of this story's writer!


Ben nailed it. consumption of a diet rich in junk food is not a necessary indicator of obesity. I've known lots of overweight people who were smarter/dumber than me. I haven't really noticed any big difference, but I have noticed that the smarter ones tend to be more aware of ways to try to be healthier, and are more aware of how unhappy they are being overweight. They therefore tend to live better, eat better, and excercise more than the less intelligent people I've known. I think it's likely that this research is linking a true cause and effect. empty food-empty head. while not actually making any connections at all with the weight of the children. Either the link is more nuanced than 'fat people eat junk food so they must be dumber' and maybe its more like eating the wrong foods at the wrong time can stunt certain stages of developement or there's a lot of super-genius's hiding behind overweight people who just missed their moment with the carrots.


The article is talking about young children. While adults can develop experience (knowledge) through reading and other sedentary activities, it seems possible that a young child's primary way of developing experience (and knowledge) comes from manipulation of the environment. If so, the less mobile the child, the more limited the experience. Obese children may be more passive which limits their interaction with the environment. Hence, a measurement of their experience would reflect that. BUT, until we know for certain, how about just saying there seems to be a reason to further explore this issue so we can gain a better understanding of it? Extrapolating to other age groups and/or assuming some immutable, lifelong process kicked off at age 3 is definitely premature.

Impeach obama

What a load of crap....



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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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