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Cardiac autonomic regulation as a predictor for childhood obesity intervention success


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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This research was made possible by NPRP grant No. NPRP X-036-3-013 from the Qatar National Research Fund (a member of Qatar Foundation). The authors are grateful to all participating schools and children. The authors are also grateful to Ms Jackie Lothian and Ms Sahar Karim Jreige for their assistance with the data collection, and to Dr Francis Kynaston-Pearson and Dr Simon Taylor for their comments and suggestions in relation to manuscript drafts.


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Correspondence to M J Taylor.

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Competing interests

Professor Paul Gately is a Professor at Leeds Beckett University as well as being the Managing Director and a shareholder of MoreLife UK Ltd. MoreLife UK Ltd is an organisation that delivers weight management and health improvement programmes in the UK, it is a subsidiary company of Leeds Beckett University. The remaining authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Taylor, M., Vlaev, I., Taylor, D. et al. Cardiac autonomic regulation as a predictor for childhood obesity intervention success. Int J Obes 41, 824–827 (2017).

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