Being overweight or obese is associated with inhibition control in children from six to ten years of age

Acta Paediatr. 2015 Jun;104(6):619-25. doi: 10.1111/apa.12976. Epub 2015 Mar 27.


Aim: This study investigated the relationship between being overweight or obese and executive function in six- to ten-year-olds.

Methods: The participants were 515 children (250 boys) from schools in Reus, Spain. The initial sample was measured and weighed and assessed with the Children's Color Trail Test. Children classified as overweight, including obese, and their age- and gender-matched controls (n = 221), were assessed in a second phase with the Five Digit Test (FDT) and the Symbol Digit Modalities Test. Logistic regression models were applied to analyse the effect of executive functions on being overweight, including obese.

Results: We found that 28.9% of the children were overweight and 7.2% were obese. The FDT showed that inhibition (odds risk of 1.04, range 1.00-1.08, p = 0.04) and flexibility (odds risk of 1.04, range 1.00-1.07, p = 0.02) were significantly associated with overweight, including obesity, regardless of sociodemographic and psychopathological variables.

Conclusion: These results suggest that children who were overweight or obese had a reduced ability to mobilise the cognitive effort required to inhibit involuntary responses and to switch between different mental operations. A developmental trajectory would provide important insights into the relationship between executive functioning pattern and the risk of being overweight or obese.

Keywords: Altered inhibitory control; Cognitive function; Executive function; Obesity; Overweight.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Executive Function*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pediatric Obesity / psychology*
  • Prospective Studies