The relationship between total water intake and cognitive control among prepubertal children

N. A. Khan, L. B. Raine, E. S. Drollette, M. R. Scudder, N. J. Cohen, A. F. Kramer, C. H. Hillman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Cognitive control (also known as executive function) encompasses mental processes that underlie goal-directed behavior, and it enables us to adjust our behavior according to changing environmental demands. Previous research among children has demonstrated that aerobic fitness and obesity have contrasting and selective effects on cognitive control. However, the relationship between water intake and childhood cognitive control remains inadequately studied. This study investigated the relationship between total water intake and cognitive control among prepubertal children (8-9-year olds). Methods: Children between 8 and 9 years of age (n = 63) performed a modified flanker task to assess cognitive control related to inhibition (ability to resist distractions and maintain focus). Diet was measured using 3-day food records. Total water was defined as water consumed from drinking water, beverages, and food. Results: A comparison of task performance across the median intake of total water revealed that children above the median exhibited shorter reaction times across multiple conditions of the flanker task, requiring variable amounts of cognitive control. Further, after adjustment of age, IQ, socioeconomic status, weight status, and aerobic fitness level, the proportion of intake comprised of water (%TW) was negatively correlated with reaction time interference, that is, the ability to maintain task performance when task conditions demanded greater inhibition. Conclusions: These results indicate an association between water intake and cognitive control using a task that modulates inhibition. Specifically, higher water intake correlated with greater ability to maintain task performance when inhibitory demands are increased. Future work is needed to determine the mechanism by which water influences cognitive control among children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-41
Number of pages4
JournalAnnals of Nutrition and Metabolism
StatePublished - Jun 23 2015



  • Attention
  • Children
  • Cognition
  • Reaction time
  • Water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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