Obesity is associated with impaired cardiac autonomic modulation in children

Sol M. Rodríguez-Colón, Edward Bixler, Xian Li, Alexandros Vgontzas, Duanping Liao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Objective. To examine the cross-sectional association between measurements of obesity and subclinical impairment of cardiac autonomic modulation (CAM) in a population-based sample of children. Methods. Data from 616 grade K-5 children randomly selected from Central Pennsylvania were utilized. Obesity was defined using the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) age- and sex-specific cut-off criteria and classified as normal weight, overweight, and obese. CAM was measured by heart rate variability (HRV) analysis of beat-to-beat RR intervals, including time domain measures i.e., the standard deviation of all RR intervals (SDNN), the square root of the mean of the sum of squares of differences between adjacent RR intervals (RMSSD), and mean heart rate (HR); and frequency domain measures i.e., high frequency power (HF), low frequency power (LF), and LF/HF ratio. Results. The prevalence of obesity and overweight in children was 12.3%, and 16.5%, respectively. Age, race, sex, and sleep disorder breathing (SDB) adjusted means (standard error, SE) of SDNN were 98 (1.24), 90.2 (2.58), and 81.9 (3.03) milliseconds (ms) in normal weight, overweight, and obese groups, respectively; and that for (log) HF were 6.83 (0.04), 6.56 (0.08), and 6.35 (0.09) ms2, respectively. Comparing the magnitude of effects from body mass index (BMI), weight, and height percentiles, and waist circumference on HRV indices revealed that body weight was the strongest correlate of HRV indices. Conclusion. Childhood obesity is significantly associated with lower HRV, indicative of sympathetic overflow unopposed by parasympathetic modulation. These findings support the need to target childhood-obesity before traditional "high risk age" for cardiac events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-134
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Pediatric Obesity
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Health Policy
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Obesity is associated with impaired cardiac autonomic modulation in children'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this