Australian researchers explored how childhood fitness and obesity affected cognition in middle age. The study is published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.
The researchers were drawn from the National Center for Healthy Aging at Peninsula Health and Monash University in Melbourne and the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania.
They surveyed 1244 participants from the Australian Childhood Determinants of Adult Health study, in intermittent phases, between 1985-2019. They were assessed for fitness (cardiorespiratory, muscular power, muscular endurance), anthropometry (waist-to-hip ratio), and cognition.
The results revealed that childhood obesity and fitness measures are closely linked with midlife cognition. For instance, children with higher fitness scores and lower average waist-to-hip ratio had higher midlife cognitive scores. However, these findings are not impacted by factors like academic ability and socioeconomic status in childhood or by smoking and alcohol consumption in midlife.
The researchers are enthusiastic that the findings from the study will help identify factors in early life that may protect against later cognitive decline.
One of the lead researchers, Professor Michele Callisaya, elaborated: “The study also indicates that protective strategies against future cognitive decline may need to start as far back as early childhood, so that the brain can develop sufficient reserve against developing conditions such as dementia in older life.”
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Tait, J. L., Collyer, T. A., Gall, S. L., Magnussen, C. G., Venn, A. J., Dwyer, T., Fraser, B. J., Moran, C., Srikanth, V. K., & Callisaya, M. L. (2022). Longitudinal associations of childhood fitness and obesity profiles with midlife cognitive function: an Australian cohort study. Journal of science and medicine in sport, S1440-2440(22)00150-5. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2022.05.009