Abstract

The prevalence of childhood obesity in the United States has tripled since the 1980s and is strongly linked to the early onset of several metabolic diseases. Recent studies indicate that lower cognitive function may be another complication of childhood obesity. This review considers the research to date on the role of obesity and nutrition on childhood cognition and brain health. Although a handful of studies point to a maladaptive relationship between obesity and aspects of cognitive control, remarkably little is known regarding the impact of fat mass on brain development and cognitive function. Further, missing from the literature is the role of nutrition in the obesity-cognition interaction. Nutrition may directly or indirectly influence cognitive performance via several pathways including provision of key substrates for optimal brain health, modulation of gut microbiota, and alterations in systemic energy balance. However, in the absence of malnutrition, the functional benefits of specific nutrient intake on particular cognitive domains are not well characterized. Here, we examine the literature linking childhood obesity and cognition while considering the effects of nutritional intake. Possible mechanisms for these relationships are discussed and suggestions are made for future study topics. Although childhood obesity prevalence rates in some developed countries have recently stabilized, significant disparities remain among groups based on sex and socioeconomic status. Given that the elevated prevalence of pediatric overweight and obesity may persist for the foreseeable future, it is crucial to develop a comprehensive understanding of the influence of obesity and nutrition on cognition and brain health in the pediatric population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-71
Number of pages21
JournalMonographs of the Society for Research in Child Development
Volume79
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'IV. The cognitive implications of obesity and nutrition in childhood'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this