Sleep Health and Psychopathology Mediate Executive Deficits in Paediatric Obesity
A new study from Childhood Obesity has found that paediatric obesity is associated with impairment of some components of reward-related decision-making and executive functioning, as well as poorer sleep health and greater risk of internalising psychopathology. Obese children showed reduced ability to adapt behaviour to changing reward contingencies and also the presence of executive dysfunction under everyday behaviour regulation. There were 112 participants in the study, in which researchers conducted a range of tasks to test different psycho-metrics, using only non-food stimuli. Alongside this, parents were asked to fill out standardised questionnaires to assess sleep health, psychiatric symptoms and executive function.
The parental reports indicated that children with obesity had poorer sleep, despite equal sleep duration, and a four times greater risk of experiencing internalising psychopathology. Importantly these mediated the negative effects on everyday behavioural regulation and meta-cognitive abilities. One of the constraints of the study, that the authors highlight, is that it’s unclear whether obesity is the cause or consequence.
Further studies have been proposed which would closely monitor physiological and metabolic variables in Pre and Post weight loss subjects to disambiguate the relationship. The study authors go on to reiterate the importance of understanding this relationship as it could be a key new therapy target.