Intelligence in relation to obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis


XR Guo, Department of Pediatrics, Nanjing Maternal and Child Health Hospital of Nanjing Medical University, No. 123 Tian Fei Xiang, Mo Chou Road, Nanjing 21004, China. E-mail:


We performed a systematic review describing obesity/intelligent quotient (IQ) association, particularly childhood IQ in relation to adulthood obesity. After screening 883 citations from five electronic databases, we included 26 studies, most of medium quality. The weighted mean difference (WMD) of the full IQ (FIQ)/obesity association in the pre-school children was −15.1 (P > 0.05). Compared with controls, the WMD of FIQ and performance IQ of obese children were −2.8 and −10.0, respectively (P < 0.05), and the WMD of verbal IQ was −7.01 (P > 0.05). With increasing obesity, the FIQ in pre-school children declined, with a significant difference for severely obese children and FIQ. In pubertal children, a slightly different effect of FIQ and obesity emerged. Two studies reported an inverse FIQ/obesity association in adults, but it was non-significant after adjusting for educational attainment. Four papers found that childhood FIQ was inversely associated with adult body mass index, but after adjusting for education, became null. Overall there was an inverse FIQ/obesity association, except in pre-school children. However, after adjusting for educational attainment, FIQ/obesity association was not significantly different. A lower FIQ in childhood was associated with obesity in later adulthood perhaps with educational level mediating the persistence of obesity in later life.