Abstract P299: Do Overweight Children Exhibit Impaired Cognitive Function?
Introduction: Previous research has demonstrated a negative association between children’s body composition and their academic performance with obese children testing lower on standardized assessments. Academic performance is just one way to measure cognitive function and has been shown to be influenced by multiple factors beyond obesity. The purpose of this study was to determine if a difference existed in frontal lobe function, represented by the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF) Assessment’s Global Executive Composite (GEC) score, between children (7-12 years old) categorized by BMI classification and achievement of recommended lengths of physical activity (PA). The GEC score represents such functioning as problem solving, attention, goal setting, behavior evaluation, and working memory.
Methods & Results: The BRIEF assessment was administered to parents of participating children. To assess the possibility of the aforementioned difference in frontal lobe function, a multivariate analysis of variance was used where GEC was the dependent variable and child Body Mass Index (BMI) and PA were the independent variables. Child BMIs were classified into four categories: BMI<5, 5≤BMI<85, 85≤BMI<95 and BMI>95. Children were also categorized by whether or not they met the recommended amount of PA (0=≤4 days; 1=≥5 days). A significant difference of GEC [SS=12984.184(df=3), F=3.255, p=.038] was found to exist between healthy children (5≤BMI<85, N=20, x=61.69) and overweight children (85≤BMI<95, N=6, x=80.33). A significant difference based on PA status was not observed.
Discussion: The elevated GEC score among overweight children suggests that there is more clinical concern for frontal lobe cognitive dysfunction than among healthy weight children. Because children with higher BMIs carry more weight, their bodies are subjected to much more strain. It is possible that some of this strain adversely affects the lungs’ ability to get the needed amount of oxygen to the frontal lobe to allow it to function properly. These results show yet another example of the plethora of problems associated with increased childhood BMI and documents cognitive impact using a clinical assessment tool. This finding is noteworthy in that it supports the importance of dietary and exercise-related programs from communities and school systems that promote healthier lifestyles for children for academic reasons as well as physical improvements.
- © 2013 by American Heart Association, Inc.