The goal was to conduct exploratory analysis to determine if executive functions (EFs) and food responsiveness/satiety responsiveness (appetitive behaviours that describe one’s tendency to eat in the presence of food or food cues) interact to influence weight status among preschool children participating in a trial promoting self-regulation around energy-dense foods.
At baseline, parents completed the Behaviour Rating Inventory of Executive Function-Preschool and the Child Eating Behaviour Questionnaire. Children completed anthropometric measurements at the preschool. Spearman’s correlation, linear regression, and tests of interaction were conducted. The relationship between weight status and EFs among those who were high vs low in food responsiveness and satiety responsiveness was examined.
Children (n = 92) had a mean age of 5.1 years and body mass index (BMI) percentile of 57.6; half (54%) were male. There were significant correlations between food responsiveness and several EFs (emotional control, inhibitory control, working memory, and plan/organize). In the stratified analysis, children with high food responsiveness or low satiety responsiveness had higher BMI percentiles as emotional control skills worsened. BMI percentiles were not elevated among children with low food responsiveness and poor emotional control.
These results suggest that EFs may be more relevant to weight status if preschool children had high levels of food responsiveness or low levels of satiety responsiveness (ie, increased tendency to be influenced by environmental food cues). This analysis should be replicated with direct measures of executive function and appetitive behaviours in larger samples of young children to examine longitudinal impact on weight status.