The Associations between Adiposity, Cognitive Function, and Achievement in Children

Lauren Raine, Eric Drollette, Shih Chun Kao, Daniel Westfall, Laura Chaddock-Heyman, Arthur F. Kramer, Naiman Khan, Charles Hillman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although obesity has been related to measures of academic achievement and cognition in children, the influence of fat distribution, specifically visceral adiposity, on select aspects of achievement and cognitive function remains poorly characterized among preadolescent children. Purpose The aim of this study was to evaluate the relation of adiposity, particularly visceral adipose tissue (VAT), on achievement and cognitive function among children. Methods Children with obesity (ages 8-9 yr old, N = 55, 35 females) completed cognitive and academic tests. Normal weight children (N = 55, 35 females) were matched to this group on demographic characteristics and aerobic fitness. Covariate analyses included age, Brief Intellectual Ability, socioeconomic status, and fat-free VO2 (VO2 peak adjusted for lean mass; mL·kg lean-1·min-1). Adiposity (i.e., whole body percent fat, subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue, and VAT) was assessed using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. Results The results of this study revealed that, relative to their normal weight counterparts, children with obesity had significantly lower performance on tests of reading and math. Analyses revealed that among children with obesity, %Fat and subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue were not related to cognitive abilities. However, higher VAT was associated with poorer intellectual abilities (Ps ≤ 0.04) and cognitive performance (i.e., thinking ability and cognitive efficiency, Ps ≤ 0.04). However, among normal weight children, VAT was positively associated with intellectual abilities and cognitive efficiency. Conclusion In conclusion, the results suggest that VAT was selectively and negatively related with cognition among children with obesity. Along with the dangerous metabolic nature of VAT, its detrimental relationship with obese children's intellectual and cognitive functioning is concerning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1868-1874
Number of pages7
JournalMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018



ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The Associations between Adiposity, Cognitive Function, and Achievement in Children'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this