Is body mass index in old age related to cognitive abilities? The Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 study

Janie Corley, Alan J. Gow, John M. Starr, Ian J. Deary*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    30 Citations (Scopus)


    We tested the hypothesis that the previously reported association between a higher body mass index (BMI) and poorer cognition in later adulthood is an artifact of confounding by previous cognitive ability and socioeconomic status Participants were 1 079 adults aged about 70 years in the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 Study on whom there are IQ data from age 11 Cognitive outcome measures Included IQ at age 70 using the same test that was administered at age 11 composite measures of general cognitive ability (g factor) speed of information processing and memory and two tests of verbal ability People classified as overweight or obese in later adulthood had significantly lower scores on tests of childhood IQ age 70 IQ g factor and verbal ability There was no significant association with processing Speed or memory performance After adjusting for childhood IQ and social class in general linear models associations with age 70 IQ and g factor were nonsignificant or attenuated However throughout the models there was a persistent (Inverse) relationship between BM1 and performance on the National Adult Reading Test (NART) and Wechsler Test of Adult Reading (WTAR) which remained significant after Full adjustment for all sociodemographic and health covariates (for the NART p = 025 for the WTAR p = 011) The findings suggest that the previously reported BMI cognition associations in later adulthood could be largely accounted for by prior ability and socioeconomic status and by the possible influence of these factors on the adoption of health behaviors in adulthood

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)867-875
    Number of pages9
    JournalPsychology and Aging
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010


    • obesity cognitive function
    • childhood IQ
    • body mass index
    • aging


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