Short Communication

International Journal of Obesity (2017) 41, 824–827; doi:10.1038/ijo.2017.25; published online 21 February 2017

Cardiac autonomic regulation as a predictor for childhood obesity intervention success

M J Taylor1,2, I Vlaev3, D Taylor1, M Kulendran1, P Gately4, H Al-Kuwari5, A Darzi1 and M Ahmedna6

  1. 1Department of Surgery and Cancer, Imperial College London, London, UK
  2. 2Division of Medical Sciences and Graduate Entry Medicine, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
  3. 3Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
  4. 4Carnegie School of Sport, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK
  5. 5Hamad Medical Corporation, Doha, Qatar
  6. 6Department of Health Sciences, Qatar University, Doha, Qatar

Correspondence: Dr MJ Taylor, Division of Surgery, Department of Surgery and Cancer, 10th Floor QEQM Building, St Mary’s Hospital, South Wharf Road, London, W2 1NY, UK. E-mail:

Received 25 July 2016; Revised 5 December 2016; Accepted 11 January 2017
Accepted article preview online 27 January 2017; Advance online publication 21 February 2017



Childhood obesity is a major public health concern; behavioural interventions induce weight reduction in some, but success is variable. Heart rate variability (HRV) has been associated with impulse control and extent of dieting success. This study investigated the relationship between HRV and post childhood obesity intervention weight-management success, and involved recording the frequency-domain HRV measures ratio between low frequency and high frequency power (LF/HF) and high frequency power (HF), and the time-domain measure, percentage of successive beat-to-beat intervals that differ by more than 50ms (PNN50). It was expected that greater LF/HF and lower HF would be associated with greater post-intervention weight gain, and that greater PNN50 would be associated with greater impulse control. Seventy-four participants aged 9–14 (M=10.7; s.d.: 1.1) attended a weight-management camp, where HRV was recorded. Stop signal reaction time (SSRT) was also recorded as a measure of impulse control. As expected, SSRT was positively associated with pre-intervention body mass (r=0.301, P=0.010) and negatively associated with PNN50 (β=0.29, P=0.031). Post-intervention body mass change was positively associated with LF/HF (β=0.34, P=0.037), but was not associated with HF. Lifestyle interventions may have a greater chance of effectively supporting long-term weight-management for children with lower LF/HF; assessing HRV of obese children may be helpful in informing obesity treatment decisions.

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