Higher Fasting Glucose Is Associated With Poorer Cognition Among Healthy Young Adults

Misty A.W. Hawkins, John Gunstad, Dayana Calvo, Mary Beth Spitznagel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Objective: Obesity is associated with cognitive deficits; however, the mechanisms are unclear, especially among otherwise healthy adults. Our objectives were to examine (a) whether obesity is linked to elevations in fasting glucose and (b) whether these elevations are associated with cognitive impairment among otherwise healthy young adults. Method: Participants were 35 normal weight adults and 35 young adults with obesity who completed a task from the Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metrics-4 (ANAM-4). Measured body mass index (BMI) and fasting blood glucose levels (mg/dL) were examined. Results: Persons with obesity had higher fasting glucose levels than normal weight persons (p =.03). After applying Bonferroni correction for multiple tests, higher fasting glucose predicted less accurate performance on tests of inhibitory control: Go/No-Go Commission Errors (β =.33, p =.004). No effects were observed for sustained attention or working memory (ps ≥.049). Persons with glucose levels in the prediabetes range had nearly twice as many errors as those with normal glucose, a large effect that was independent of BMI. Conclusions: Young adults who were obese but otherwise healthy had higher fasting glucose levels compared with normal weight peers. Higher glucose levels were associated with poorer cognitive performance on tests of inhibitory control, especially among individuals with prediabetes levels. Thus, subclinical elevations in blood glucose may contribute to cognitive impairment and, ultimately, greater impulsivity- well in advance of the development of chronic disease states (e.g., insulin resistance or Type 2 diabetes) and independently of excess adiposity-though prospective studies are needed to determine directionality of this relationship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-202
Number of pages4
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive function
  • Fasting glucose
  • Glucoregulation
  • Inhibitory control
  • Obesity


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