Study Title:

Coordination Problems Linked to Obesity

Study Abstract

Objective To identify whether measures of childhood physical control and coordination as markers of neurological function are associated with obesity in adults.
Design Longitudinal birth cohort study.

Setting National child development study in Great Britain.

Participants 11 042 people born during one week in 1958.

Main outcome measure Obesity at age 33 years defined as body mass index 30.

Results Among 7990 cohort members at age 7 years, teachers reported that poor hand control, poor coordination, and clumsiness "certainly applied" more often among those who would be obese adults, producing adjusted odds ratios of 1.57 (95% confidence interval 1.13 to 2.20; P=0.008) for poor hand control, 2.30 (1.52 to 3.46; P<0.001) for poor coordination, and 3.91 (2.61 to 5.87; P<0.001) for clumsiness. Among 6875 participants who had doctor administered assessments with continuous scores at age 11 years, poorer function was associated with later obesity, indicated by adjusted odds ratios (change in risk per unit increase in score) of 0.88 (0.81 to 0.96; P=0.003) for copying designs, 0.84 (0.78 to 0.91; P<0.001) for marking squares, and 1.14 (1.06 to 1.24; P<0.001) for picking up matches (a higher score indicates poor function in this test). Further adjustment for contemporaneous body mass index at age 7 or 11 years did not eliminate statistical significance for any of the associations.

Conclusion Some aspects of poorer neurological function associated with adult obesity may have their origins in childhood.

From press release:

A study published on reports that an increased risk of obesity later in life is associated with poor physical control and coordination during childhood. These findings, suggested by Walter Osika and Scott Montgomery (Orebro University Hospital, Orebro, Sweden), are yet another piece of evidence that correlates type 2 diabetes in adults, obesity, and poor cognitive function in childhood.

The researchers studied a sample of 11,042 individuals who have participated in the National Child Development Study in Great Britain - an active program since 1958. To test physical control and coordination, teachers evaluated 7,990 participants at age 7 for level of hand control, coordination, and clumsiness; doctors tested 6,875 of the participants for hand control and coordination at age 11. The battery of tests consisted of copying a simple design to measure accuracy, marking squares on paper within a minute, and picking up 20 matches. Participants then had body mass index (BMI) measurements taken at age 33, where obesity was defined as a BMI of 30 or over.

According to the researchers, the 7-year olds who had poorer hand control and coordination and were more clumsy were more likely to become obese adults. Similarly, poorer function at age 11 was positively correlated with obesity at age 33. Statistically adjusting for possible confounding factors such as childhood body mass and family social class did not change the researchers' conclusions.

The authors write that, "Some early life exposures [such as maternal smoking during pregnancy] or personal characteristics may impair the development of physical control and coordination, as well as increasing the risk of obesity in later life." They conclude: "Rather than being explained by a single factor, an accumulation throughout life of many associated cultural, personal, and economic exposures is likely to underlie the risks for obesity and some elements of associated neurological function."

Study Information

Walter Osika, Scott M Montgomery
Physical control and coordination in childhood and adult obesity: longitudinal birth cohort study
2008 August
Department of Cardiology, Örebro University Hospital, SE-701 85 Örebro, Sweden,

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