Impact of Weight on Friendships Between Children

In a previous post, we discussed the link between being overweight as a child and being bullied. A new Dutch study adds to this, by documenting how excess weight affects friendships between children.

Overweight children face a form of social isolation.

  • Overweight children tend to think they have friends, when those people may not like them.
  • Overweight children tend to be excluded from friendships more often than are children of normal weight.
  • Overweight children see themselves as having more enemies than do children of normal weight.

The previous research suggested that these emotional effects may linger into  high school and young adulthood and be linked to depression and to self-harmful behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse.

The growing literature on weight and the interactions between children strongly suggests the need to channel children at an early age into some form of physical activity, preferably team-based. If over-weight and isolation are harmful, team sports led by an appropriately trained coach would appear to be an antidote.

The good news is that managing weight in children who are heavy may be easier than expected. Another study suggests that use of a powdered prebiotic fiber could reduce weight gain in children by improving healthy gut bacteria and digestion. The fiber used in the study is oligofructose-enriched inulin.

“Powdered fiber, mixed in a water bottle, taken once a day is all we asked the children to change, and we got, what we consider, some pretty exciting results — it has been fantastic,” added Raylene A. Reimer, PhD, RD, professor and researcher in the Faculty of Kinesiology at University of Calgary, who led the study. (3)

Using an experimental design with a test and control group, the prebiotic fiber (taken mixed with water) appeared to cut weight gain among growing children by almost 2/3 (6.6 lb  gain among those using the prebiotic v. 17.6 in the control group).

Note: a prebiotic facilitates growth of good bacteria in the gut. A probiotic introduces new bacteria. They’re quite different and should not be confused.


Sources:

  1. Kayla de la Haye, Jan Kornelis Dijkstra, Miranda J. Lubbers, Loes van Rijsewijk, Ronald Stolk. The dual role of friendship and antipathy relations in the marginalization of overweight children in their peer networks: The TRAILS Study. PLOS ONE, 2017; 12 (6): e0178130 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0178130
  2. Crain, “Childhood Weight, Adult Depression and . . . Bullying? Time to Connect the Dots?” May 2017.
  3. Alissa C. Nicolucci, Megan P. Hume, Inés Martínez, Shyamchand Mayengbam, Jens Walter, Raylene A. Reimer. Prebiotic Reduces Body Fat and Alters Intestinal Microbiota in Children With Overweight or Obesity. Gastroenterology, 2017; DOI: 10.1053/j.gastro.2017.05.055
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