Nutrition and Cognitive Development in Children

Nutrition and Cognitive Development in Children

Benefits of Nutrition and Cognitive Development in Children

Children develop cognitive abilities through formal and informal interactions.  Nutrition and cognitive development in children are imperative.  Proper nutrition is essential for proper cognitive development.  The effects of undernutrition on young children (ages 0-8) can be tragic.  Malnourishment can cause behavioral and cognitive developmental delays,  the ability to retain information impeding on the ability to produce work in the future.  Interventions are needed on very young children because growth failure occurs primarily during the intrauterine period and during the first two years of life.

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Malnourishment during the first years of life can seriously impact on a child health, as well as their ability to learn, communicate, socialize, and adjust to new environments, and people.  Good nutrition prevents several childhood diseases which can scar a child for life.  In the area of cognitive development, “when there isn’t enough food, the body has to make a decision about how to invest the limited food available.  So the body goes into survival mode and learning will be compromised.  Some developmental problems malnourished children experience are physiological crippling, delayed brain growth, and low birth weight.  Other conditions result from limited and abnormal interactions and stimulation, which are crucial to healthy development.
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Relationship Between Undernutrition and Cognitive and Behavioral Development

Behavioral development is delayed.   Poor nutrition during pregnancy and early years leads to various effects such as the following:

  • Delayed physical growth and motor development
  • General effects on cognitive development resulting in lower IQs
  • Increased behavioral problems and lower social skills at school age.
  • Decreased attention, deficient learning, and lower educational achievement

Because each individual holds their own nutrient deficiencies, it is difficult to isolate specific single nutrients.  Researchers believe that Iodine deficiency and iron-deficiency anemia are easier to study if a child is deficient.  Additionally, important research has indicated that when neither of these nutrients are present in the body it caused impairments.  Less severer forms of iron deficiency do not necessarily effect behavior.  Since it is difficult to determine if your child is getting the proper nutrients, it is best to provide a balanced diet.  A proper diet will ensure your child develops appropriately.

Interventions are effective for physical growth during pregnancy and the first 2-3 years of life.  Behavioral development interventions are beneficial during the first two years of life.  If proper nutrition is not established initially, there is evidence that improvements can be achieved even in severely malnourished children.   This can be done if appropriate steps are taken at a a young age to meet nutritional and psychosocial needs.   It is best to intervene as soon a possible to prevent permanent effects.  Once proper nutrition interventions takes place, in preschool children or in the first few years of life, it will lead to significant improvement in adolescence and adulthood.

Early nutritional intervention programs have improved cognition and physical growth.  It is evident that when the programs begin earlier the more successful the outcome.  Children who receive a combination of nutrition and stimulation programs perform better than those who receive only one intervention.


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