Early Nutrition Associated with Later Cognitive Function

Protein-rich diet in early childhood is associated with increased cognitive function as an adult

TUESDAY, July 8 (HealthDay News) -- In resource-poor environments, providing a protein-rich nutritional supplement to children from birth to age 2 was associated with improved assessments of cognitive function later in life, according to an article published in the July issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Aryeh D. Stein, Ph.D., of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, and colleagues report on a prospective cohort study where residents of four Guatemalan villages were offered either protein-rich atole, or fresco -- a nutritional supplement that contains no protein -- between 1969 and 1977. The cohort was resurveyed in 2002-2004, and reading comprehension and cognitive function were assessed.

The investigators report that reading comprehension results were attenuated and not significant after controlling for years of schooling, however, cognitive function demonstrated significant improvements equivalent to 0.4 years (1.2 for women) of schooling following supplementation with atole.

"Our data are consistent with the model that early-life nutritional intervention results in improvements in growth and development, which in turn induce further parental investments," the authors write. The study provides "additional evidence in support of intervention strategies that link early investments in children to continued investments in early-life nutrition and in schooling."

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