One-Year Prospective Association of BMI with Later Cognitive Development in Preschoolers

Carina Hansen, Latasha Smith, Brian A. Lynch, Antonela Miccoli, Magdalena Romanowicz, Loren Toussaint

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examined the prospective relationships between preschoolers’ body mass index (BMI) and cognitive development. BMI, cognitive (i.e., Brigance), sex, and age data were collected from seven cohorts of children attending Head Start from 2012 to 2018. Children (N = 324) with two years of complete data were included. After controlling for the first year cognitive development scores, age, gender, and the cohort, the BMI was predictive of lower cognitive development scores in year two (B = −0.06, β = −0.14, t = −3.19, p = 0.002). Female sex (B = 2.69, β = 0.10, t = 2.30, p = 0.022) and older age (B = 0.02, β = 0.15, t = 3.20, p ≤ 0.001) were also shown to be statistically significant predictors of improved year two cognitive scores. The initial BMI scores were associated with poorer one year cognitive development scores in this sample of preschool children. Excessive body mass may contribute to numerous biological, psychological, and social factors that inhibit children with obesity from reaching their full cognitive potential, during a time in which brain development and cognitive skills development are at critical points of growth. Early childhood obesity interventions may have positive consequences for cognitive development, but additional prospective studies are needed to confirm these results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number320
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • Child development
  • Obesity
  • Preschool child

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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