Childhood intelligence and adult obesity

Authors

  • Satoshi Kanazawa

    Corresponding author
    1. Managerial Economics and Strategy Group, Department of Management, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, United Kingdom
    • Managerial Economics and Strategy Group, Department of Management, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, United Kingdom

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Abstract

Objective: Recent studies conclude childhood intelligence has no direct effect on adult obesity net of education, but evolutionary psychological theories suggest otherwise.

Design and Methods: A population (n = 17,419) of British babies has been followed since birth in 1958 in a prospectively longitudinal study. Childhood general intelligence is measured at 7, 11, and 16, and adult BMI and obesity are measured at 51.

Results: Childhood general intelligence has a direct effect on adult BMI, obesity, and weight gain, net of education, earnings, mother's BMI, father's BMI, childhood social class, and sex. More intelligent children grow up to eat more healthy foods and exercise more frequently as adults.

Conclusion: Childhood intelligence has a direct effect on adult obesity unmediated by education or earnings. General intelligence decreases BMI only in adulthood when individuals have complete control over what they eat.

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