Obesity-associated biomarkers and executive function in children

Pediatr Res. 2015 Jan;77(1-2):143-7. doi: 10.1038/pr.2014.158. Epub 2014 Oct 13.


There is a growing focus on links between obesity and cognitive decline in adulthood, including Alzheimer's disease. It is also increasingly recognized that obesity in youth is associated with poorer cognitive function, specifically executive functioning skills such as inhibitory control and working memory, which are critical for academic achievement. Emerging literature provides evidence for possible biological mechanisms driven by obesity; obesity-associated biomarkers such as adipokines, obesity-associated inflammatory cytokines, and obesity-associated gut hormones have been associated with learning, memory, and general cognitive function. To date, examination of obesity-associated biology with brain function has primarily occurred in animal models. The few studies examining such biologically mediated pathways in adult humans have corroborated the animal data, but this body of work has gone relatively unrecognized by the pediatric literature. Despite the fact that differences in these biomarkers have been found in association with obesity in children, the possibility that obesity-related biology could affect brain development in children has not been actively considered. We review obesity-associated biomarkers that have shown associations with neurocognitive skills, specifically executive functioning skills, which have far-reaching implications for child development. Understanding such gut-brain associations early in the lifespan may yield unique intervention implications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipokines / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Child
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Leptin / metabolism
  • Obesity / metabolism*


  • Adipokines
  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines
  • Leptin