Who is this summary for?

For Doctors and Health Personnel, Community Health Workers, Teachers and the partners involved in the prevention of overweight or obese children and adolescents.

Key findings

· Compared with standard school routine, school-based interventions targeting healthy diet and lifestyle education lead to small improvements in overall school achievement in overweight or obese children.

·   Increasing physical activity improves scores on tests of mathematics and memory, and improved ’problem-solving’ thinking skills.


Many children and adolescents worldwide are overweight or obese. Children and adolescents who are overweight or obese have increased physical disease and emotional distress. They also perform poorly on tests of thinking (cognitive ability), and they do not perform well in school. To prevent and treat obesity, several lifestyle changes have been suggested, for example, being more physically active, eating fewer calories and sitting less. These interventions are known to improve thinking skills and school achievement in children of normal weight. It is unknown whether the effects are the same in overweight or obese children and adolescents.


What  is  the  efficacy  of  lifestyle  interventions  aimed  at  improving  school  achievement, cognitive function and future success in over-weight or obese children and adolescents compared with standard care, waiting list control, no treatment or attention control?





Of the six studies, four were conducted in the USA, one was carried out in Canada and one in Germany. Three studies took place in the classroom and/or within the school environment; one study provided an after-school intervention outside the school setting, and two studies delivered the intervention both in the classroom and in participants’ homes.

Some of these interventions may be applicable in Cameroon.


Overall, despite the large number of childhood obesity treatment studies, only a select few evaluated the effects of obesity treatment on school achievement and cognitive function. The existing studies are limited in quality but suggest that lifestyle interventions could benefit overweight and obese children specifically in overall school achievement, mathematics, memory and specific thinking skills. Policy makers may wish to consider these potential additional benefits when promoting physical activity and healthy eating in schools. Future obesity treatment studies could consider academic and cognitive as well as physical outcomes.


Prepared by:

M. Vouking, C.D. Evina, L. Mbuagbaw, P. Ongolo-Zogo: Centre for the Development of Best Practices in Health, Yaoundé, Cameroon.

May 2015