Gender differences in the association between stop-signal reaction times, body mass indices and/or spontaneous food intake in pre-school children: an early model of compromised inhibitory control and obesity
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BACKGROUND: Poor inhibitory control is associated with overeating and/or obesity in school-age children, adolescents and adults. The current study examined whether an objective and reliable marker of response inhibition, the stop-signal reaction time (SSRT), is associated with body mass index (BMI) z-scores and/or food intake during a snack test in pre-school children. METHODS: The current sample consisted of 193 pre-school children taking part in a longitudinal study of early brain development (Maternal Adversity, Vulnerability and Neurodevelopment (the MAVAN project)). Linear mixed-effect models were used to examine whether the SSRT measured at age 48 months associated with BMI z-scores and/or dietary intake during a laboratory-based snack test. RESULTS: After controlling for significant covariates including maternal BMI, there was a significant gender by SSRT interaction effect in predicting 48-month BMI z-scores. Post-hoc analysis revealed an association between longer SSRTs (poor response inhibition) and higher BMIs in girls but not boys. Across both girls and boys, longer SSRTs were associated with greater intake of carbohydrates and sugars during the snack test. The association between SSRT scores and BMI z-scores in girls was not statistically mediated by carbohydrate or sugar intake. CONCLUSIONS: At 48 months of age, slower response inhibition on the Stop-Signal Task associates with higher BMI z-scores in girls, and with higher intake of carbohydrates and sugars during a snack test across both genders. Ongoing follow-up of these children will help clarify the implications of these associations for longer term macronutrient intake, eating-related pathology and/or pathological weight gain over time.
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