Cognitive Functioning and Insulin Regulation in Obese Youth


Background: There are data that suggest adiposity is associated with diminished cognitive functioning in adults and youth, independent of related co-morbidities. Little is known about the pathophysiological mechanisms associated with cognitive function in obese youth. The objective of the present study was to assess the associations among cognitive functioning and insulin regulation in a sample of obese youth. Methods: The sample consisted of 30 obese, non-diabetic youth (BMI > 95th percentile) ages 6-16 years (mean age = 12.60 years) referred to an outpatient pediatric endocrinology clinic. Youth were administered the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI) and Wide Range Assessment of Memory and Learning (WRAML-2). Results: Verbal memory, attention/concentration, and intelligence scores were similar across obese youth with elevated insulin levels and normal insulin levels. Obese youth with elevated insulin levels had lower scores in visual memory, with a medium effect (effect size = 0.51). Fasting insulin levels were not associated with any of the four cognitive domains in the multiple linear regression analysis (P > 0.05). Conclusions: These data provide preliminary evidence that visual memory may be impacted in obese youth with insulin resistance. Longitudinal studies examining insulin regulation, cognitive functioning, and weight status over time are needed.

Share and Cite:

C. Limbers, J. Steadman, W. Bryant and M. Stephen, "Cognitive Functioning and Insulin Regulation in Obese Youth," Open Journal of Medical Psychology, Vol. 3 No. 1, 2014, pp. 42-47. doi: 10.4236/ojmp.2014.31005.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] P. A. Gaudieri, et al., “Cognitive Function in Children with Type 1 Diabetes,” Diabetes Care, Vol. 31, No. 9, 2008, pp. 1892-1897.
[2] M. D. Lezak, “Neuropsychological Assessment,” 3rd Edition, Oxford Press, New York, 1995.
[3] J. Gunstad, et al., “Obesity Is Associated with Memory Deficits in Young and Middle-Aged Adults,” Eating and Weight Disorders, Vol. 11, No. 1, 2006, pp. 15-19.
[4] J. Gunstad, et al., “Elevated Body Mass Index Is Associated with Executive Dysfunction in Otherwise Healthy Adults,” Comprehensive Psychiatry, Vol. 48, No. 1, 2007, pp. 57-61.
[5] E. Smith, et al., “A Review of the Association between Obesity and Cognitive Function across the Lifespan: Implications for Novel Approaches to Prevention and Treatment,” Obesity Reviews, Vol. 12, No. 9, 2011, pp. 740-755.
[6] Y. Kazem, et al., “The Relation between Insulin Resistance and Cognitive Functions among a Group of Healthy Obese Egyptian Females,” International Journal of Academic Research, Vol. 3, No. 4, 2011, p. 575.
[7] G. Watson and S. Craft, “The Role of Insulin Resistance in the Pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s Disease: Implications for Treatment,” CNS Drugs, Vol. 17, No. 1, 2003, pp. 27-45.
[8] G. Taubes, “Insulin Insults May Spur Alzheimer’s Disease,” Science, Vol. 301, No. 5629, 2003, pp. 40-41.
[9] M. E. Tascilar, et al., “P300 Auditory Event Related Potentials in Children with Obesity: Is Childhood Obesity Related to Impairment in Cognitive Functions,” Pediatric Diabetes, Vol. 12, No. 7, 2011, pp. 589-595.
[10] L. H. Epstein, et al., “Treatment of Pediatric Obesity,” Pediatrics, Vol. 101, No. 3, 1998, pp. 554-570.
[11] D. E. Wilfley, et al., “Efficacy of Maintenance Treatment Approaches for Childhood Overweight: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 298, No. 14, 2007, pp. 1661-1673.
[12] D. E. Wilfley, et al., “Lifestyle Interventions in the Treatment of Childhood Overweight: A Meta-Analytic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials,” Health Psychology, Vol. 26, No. 5, 2007, pp. 521-532.
[13] C. D. Summerbell, et al., “Interventions for Preventing Obesity in Children,” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Vol. 20, No. 3, 2005, Article ID: CD001871.
[14] L. S. Gottfredson, “Intelligence: Is It the Epidemiologists’ Elusive ‘Fundamental Cause’ of Social Class Inequalities in Health?” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 86, No. 1, 2004, pp. 174-199.
[15] “Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence Manual,” Psychological Corporation, San Antonio, 1999.
[16] A. R. Jensen, “The g Factor: The Science of Mental Ability,” Praeger Publishers/Greenwood, Westport, 1998.
[17] D. Sheslow and W. Adams, “Wide Range Assessment of Memory and Learning Second Edition Administration and Technical Manual,” Psychological Assessment Resources, Lutz, 2003.
[18] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Health-Related Quality of Life,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, 2011.
[19] J. Cohen, “Statistical Power Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences,” 2nd Edition, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, 1988.
[20] SPSS, “SPSS 19.0 for Windows,” IBM, Armonk, New York, 2012.
[21] A. G. Boeka and K. L. Lokken, “Neuropsychological Performance of a Clinical Sample of Extremely Obese Individuals,” Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, Vol. 23, No. 4, 2008, pp. 467-474.
[22] K. L. Lokken, et al., “Evidence of Executive Dysfunction in Extremely Obese Adolescents: A Pilot Study,” Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases, Vol. 5, No. 5, 2009, pp. 547-552.
[23] C. Benedict, et al., “Intranasal Insulin as a Therapeutic Option in the Treatment of Cognitive Impairments,” Experimental Gerontology, Vol. 46, No. 2-3, 2011, pp. 112-115.
[24] M. M. Gonzales, et al., “Insulin Sensitivity as a Mediator of the Relationship between BMI and Working Memory-Related Brain Activation,” Obesity, Vol. 18, No. 11, 2010, pp. 2131-2137.
[25] A. M. Kring, et al., “Abnormal Psychology,” 11th Edition, John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, 2010.
[26] V. Mikkila, et al., “Consistent Dietary Patterns Identified from Childhood to Adulthood: The Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study,” British Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 93, No. 6, 2005, pp. 923-931.
[27] R. Reinehr, et al., “Body Mass Index Patterns over 5 Years in Obese Children Motivated to Participate in a 1-Year Lifestyle Intervention: Age as a Predictor of Long-Term Success,” American Journal Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 91, No. 5, 2010, pp. 1165-1171.
[28] T. Chandola, et al., “Childhood IQ in Relation to Obesity and Weight Gain in Adult Life: The National Child Development (1958) Study,” International Journal of Obesity, Vol. 30, No. 9, 2006, pp. 1422-1432.

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.