Aerobic Fitness, B-Vitamins, and Weight Status Are Related to Selective Attention in Children

Lauren B. Raine, Jennifer N. H. Watrous, Katherine McDonald, Nicole E. Logan, Naiman A. Khan, Arthur F. Kramer, Charles H. Hillman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is an increasing prevalence of poor health behaviors during childhood, particularly in terms of physical activity and nutrition. This trend has occurred alongside a growing body of evidence linking these behaviors to cognitive function. B-vitamins are thought to be particularly important in the neural development that occurs during pregnancy, as well as in healthy cognitive aging. However, much less is known regarding the role of B-vitamins during childhood. Given that preadolescent childhood is a critical period for cognitive development, this study investigated the relationship between specific aspects of nutrition, particularly B-vitamins, and related health factors (e.g., body mass, fitness) on selective attention in children. Children (n = 85; 8–11 years) completed a selective attention task to assess inhibition. Participant’s dietary intake was collected using the Automated Self-Administered 24-hour dietary assessment tool. Correlations between specific nutrients, BMI, fitness, and task performance were investigated. After accounting for demographic variables and total caloric intake, increased B-vitamin intake (i.e., thiamin and folic acid) was associated with shorter reaction times (p’s < 0.05), fitness was associated with greater response accuracy (p < 0.05), and increased BMI was related to increased variability in reaction times (p < 0.05). Together, these findings suggest that aspects of health may have unique contributions on cognitive performance. Proper physical health and nutrition are imperative for effective cognitive functioning in preadolescent children. Targeted efforts aimed at health education amongst this population could ensure proper cognitive development during school-age years, providing a strong foundation throughout life.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number201
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022


  • cognition
  • childhood
  • obesity
  • fitness
  • nutrition
  • Obesity
  • Nutrition
  • Childhood
  • Cognition
  • Fitness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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