Fasting Cognition and Weight Status in College Students

by Dayana Calvo

Institution: Kent State University
Department: College of Arts and Sciences / Department of Psychology
Degree: MA
Year: 2015
Keywords: Psychology
Record ID: 2058440
Full text PDF: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=kent1426585579


Despite the known positive health and cognitive effects of consuming breakfast, a large percentage of individuals regularly skip this important meal, particularly those who are obese. Attention and executive function are known to be poorer in this group, and it is possible that skipping breakfast would differentially affect cognition in obese individuals relative to lean. Moreover, glucose, which is known to affect cognitive function, may play an underlying role in differences between these weight groups. The current study examined differences between fasting obese and lean college students on neuropsychological tests of executive function and attention, as well as peripheral glucose. We expected poorer executive/attention performance in obese than lean over time, and that these changes would be moderated by glucoregulation. Seventy healthy college students participated in a repeated measures mixed design examining 35 lean and 35 obese participants at baseline and 90 minutes later. Participants fasted overnight (8 hrs), then completed cognitive measures including ANAM-4 Go/No-Go (GNG) and Continuous Performance Task (CPT), as well as glucometer readings, at baseline and after 90 minutes. Extended fasting resulted in slower performance on a task of vigilance and sustained attention with a trend toward more errors, as well as faster performance on a task of inhibitory control across groups over time, although no weight group differences emerged. Obese individuals showed higher fasting glucose than lean at both time points, and glucose declined across groups over the 90-minute period. However, glucoregulation did not moderate the relationship between changes in cognitive performance at baseline and 90 minutes. Although altered cognition was noted over time in the whole sample, skipping breakfast may confer no greater cognitive risk for obese than lean individuals. However, given that our weight groups showed no cognitive differences, it may also be that our healthy sample did not have enough variability in glucoregulation to impact cognition. Future work including participants with impaired glucoregulation may better capture any fasting cognitive differences between lean and obese individuals.