Bullying and Weight Gain: A Surprising Link?

by Wellness Editor – MH

It’s an unfortunate fact that many children will experience bullying at some point during their scholastic years. Likewise a growing number of children are struggling with their weight, as childhood obesity rates continue to trend upward. According to researchers from Saint Louis University (SLU), there may be a connection between these two national problems. 

A Worldwide Review 

The SLU team based their findings on data collected from the World Health Organization. Thanks to this source, the study authors could review and analyze data from 150,000 European and North American children. The survey data provided by these young subjects revealed a correlation between poor dietary habits and aggressive and antisocial behavior; specifically, children with nutritionally-deficient diets tended to be more likely to engage in bullying.

Bad Diet, Bad Brain? 

The report identified several factors that increased a child’s likelihood of becoming a bully:

  • High levels of junk-food consumption
  • Low intake of fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods
  • Frequent meal deprivation, including skipping breakfast

Study co-author Michael Vaughn contends that an unhealthy diet could interfere with the brain’s ability to regulate behavior. “We know that the human brain consumes about one-fifth of all the body’s calories,” stated Vaughn, a professor of social work. “It could be that inadequate or irregular nutrition may diminish the ability of the human brain to maintain impulse control, resulting in increased probability of aggression and bullying.”

Despite the report’s findings, the researchers caution that dietary habits themselves aren’t necessarily responsible for childhood bullying. Previous research has found that parent-child relationships as well as neighborhood living conditions can negatively influence children in this regard. “Poor diet is just one of a multitude of probable factors,” noted Vaughn. “This is one of many studies that show that intersections between nutrition and diet are meaningful, and that we should pay greater attention.”

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