Published:  2015-09-22

Cardiac Autonomic Nervous System Activation and Metabolic Profile in Young Children: The ABCD Study

Authors:  Tanja G. M. Vrijkotte, Bert-Jan H. van den Born, Christine M. C. A. Hoekstra, Maaike G. J. Gademan, Manon van Eijsden, Susanne R. de Rooij, Marcel T. B. Twickler

Tags:  Autonomic nervous system, Child health, Childhood obesity, Children, Ethnicities, Glucose metabolism, Heart rate, Mothers

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Background In adults, increased sympathetic and decreased parasympathetic nervous system activity are associated with a less favorable metabolic profile. Whether this is already determined at early age is unknown. Therefore, we aimed to assess the association between autonomic nervous system activation and metabolic profile and its components in children at age of 5–6 years. Methods Cross-sectional data from an apparently healthy population (within the ABCD study) were collected at age 5–6 years in 1540 children. Heart rate (HR), respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA; parasympathetic activity) and pre-ejection period (PEP; sympathetic activity) were assessed during rest. Metabolic components were waist-height ratio (WHtR), systolic blood pressure (SBP), fasting triglycerides, glucose and HDL-cholesterol. Individual components, as well as a cumulative metabolic score, were analyzed. Results In analysis adjusted for child’s physical activity, sleep, anxiety score and other potential confounders, increased HR and decreased RSA were associated with higher WHtR (P< 0.01), higher SBP (p<0.001) and a higher cumulative metabolic score (HR: p < 0.001; RSA: p < 0.01). Lower PEP was only associated with higher SBP (p <0.05). Of all children, 5.6% had 3 or more (out of 5) adverse metabolic components; only higher HR was associated with this risk (per 10 bpm increase: OR = 1.56; p < 0.001). Conclusions This study shows that decreased parasympathetic activity is associated with central adiposity and higher SBP, indicative of increased metabolic risk, already at age 5–6 years.