School Readiness, Obesity, and Inflammation-Related Biomarkers in Low-Income Preschoolers Within the Healthy Kids Study

      Objective: Previous research suggests obesity is negatively related to cognitive functioning and academic outcomes. However, not much is known about this association in early childhood or potential physiological underpinnings. Biomarkers related to obesity have been associated with cognition. These associations may be further exacerbated for children who experience early life stress. The current study aims to examine multiple components of school readiness including behavioral school readiness as well as cognitive school readiness collected from Head Start. In addition, as a post hoc aim we consider associations with early life stress exposure.
      Description: Participants (n = 66) were preschool children recruited from Head Start for a larger longitudinal study. Behavioral school readiness was assessed using the Children's Behavior Questionnaire-Short Form. Cognitive school readiness was assessed using the Desired Results Developmental Profile (DRDP) obtained from Head Start records. Child height and weight were measured, and used to calculate BMI z-score. Plasma leptin, IL-6, TNF-alpha, and CRP were measured by electro-chemiluminescent immunoassay and turbidimetric assay, respectively. Parents completed questions representing aspects of early life stress, including household income, marital status, and their participation in government assistance programs.
      Evaluation: Partial correlations controlling for child age show hypothesized negative associations between pro-inflammatory cytokines and school readiness, while leptin was positively associated with cognitive school readiness and BMI z-score. Children classified as having the most exposure to early life stressors had significantly lower scores for cognitive school readiness and marginally lower scores for inhibitory control.
      Conclusion and Implications: Findings indicate further research on the physiological impact obesity may have in development during early childhood is warranted. In particular, a better understanding of associations between obesity, physiology, and school readiness is needed to provide effective prevention and intervention efforts while these associations are still developing.
      Funding: 2015-68001-23280.

      Supplementary Data

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