A new study shows that obese children may have more structural abnormalities of the brain and experience lower cognitive function than kids who are not obese. The study, which is supported by the National Institutes of Health, and published in Pediatrics, shows that adolescents with metabolic syndrome (MetS) had, “Significantly lower arithmetic, spelling, attention, and mental flexibility and a trend for lower overall intelligence.” The youth also had physical brain differences such as smaller hippocampal volumes, increased brain cerebrospinal fluid, and reductions of microstructural integrity in major white matter tracts. MetS stands for a group of risk factors that usually occur together and increase the risk for dangerous health problems like coronary artery disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. MetS is becoming extremely common in the United States and one of the biggest risk factors for MetS is central obesity (excess weight around the middle or upper body). Researchers aren’t sure yet if MetS can be linked to simply obesity, but all the risks factors for the syndrome are related to obesity. Childhood obesity is on the rise. In fact, the CDC notes that childhood obesity rates have more than tripled in the past 30 years. This means cognitive problems outlined in this research may also be on the rise. All the more reason for parents to learn all they can about healthy eating and exercise for kids.