January 2013

High BMI Linked to Lower Cognitive Functioning in Children

A new study suggests that in children, a higher body mass index (BMI) may be associated with lower cognitive control.

BMI is a widely accepted measurement that has been correlated with risk of developing disease. BMI is different for adults than it is for children. For children, a BMI-for-age is used to assess underweight, overweight and risk for overweight. This is why BMI for children is gender and age specific, and is plotted on gender specific growth charts.

Cognitive function, also called cognitive performance or cognition, refers to the ability of an individual to think, process, and store information in order to solve problems. Humans are the only organisms capable of cognition.

The new study tested the mental function of 126 children between seven and nine years old. The children took the Wide Range Achievement Test 3rd edition (WRAT3) and a test that measured cognitive control. Researchers also assessed the BMI and fat mass of the children.

Data analysis showed that a higher BMI and fat mass were associated with a poorer performance on the test items requiring high levels of cognitive control. This correlation was not seen on test items requiring low levels of cognitive control. Furthermore, a high BMI and fat mass was linked to a lower score on the WRAT3, which measured reading, spelling and arithmetic.

Further research on this topic is warranted.

For more information about integrative therapies for weight loss, please visit Natural Standard's Comparative Effectiveness Database.


  1. Kamijo K, Khan NA, Pontifex MB, et al. The relation of adiposity to cognitive control and scholastic achievement in preadolescent children. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2012 Dec;20(12):2406-11. 
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 

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