Healthy eating key to girls' ability to learn

July 17, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Lower birth weight and poor childhood diet can lead to poor learning and behaviour in children, particularly girls, according to new research.

The study, published today in Research in Developmental Disabilities by researchers from Monash University, the National Defence Medical Centre, and the National Health Research Institute, Taiwan, found with lower experienced a greater inability to learn and weaker overall competence than girls of normal birth weight.

The study linked the national birth registry to Taiwan’s Nutrition and Health Survey to examine possible relationships between lower birth weight, childhood and learning outcomes in Taiwanese children between six and 13 years old.

Co-author Emeritus Professor Mark Wahlqvist from Monash University’s Asia Pacific Health and Nutrition Centre at the Monash Asia Institute, said the findings suggested girls’ cognitive and social development was susceptible to birth weight and quality of diet.

“We found girls with a birth weight less than 2700g were more likely to show an inability to learn, have relationship problems, were unhappy and socially impaired,” Professor Wahlqvist said.

“It is not only the diet during childhood, but also that of the mother and probably the father, reflected in birth weight that may affect a child’s learning ability.”

The researchers found that although there were major differences in the results between girls with lower birth weight and those with normal birth weight, there were no significant differences among boys.

“Fortunately, it seems possible that a nutritionally deprived low birth weight girl is not irreversibly committed to neurodevelopmental impairment if a quality diet is available after birth,” Professor Wahlqvist said.

“The findings support the role of good nutrition in deterring the long-term consequences of lower birth weight in school children."

A concern is that as girls usually become the primary caretakers and educators in households, their vulnerability increases the risk of continuing the cycle of food insecurity, which closely affects maternal and child health.

“No matter what the birth weight or gender of the child, it is important mothers and their children eat nutritious meals,” Professor Wahlqvist said.

Explore further: Diet or DNA: are we fated to be fat?

Related Stories

Diet or DNA: are we fated to be fat?

March 15, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Marks on the genetic ‘code’ that babies have at birth are different for children who go on to be obese or overweight compared to those who do not, new research from the universities of Newcastle ...

How a mother's genes can increase birth weight

March 22, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Researchers at the UCL Institute of Child Health have found a single genetic variant inherited from the mother significantly increases a baby’s birth weight.

Being overweight years before pregnancy linked to bigger babies

June 27, 2012
Women who become overweight or obese during the transition from adolescence to adulthood are significantly more likely to give birth to babies with excessive birth weights, according to a new study published in the Journal ...

Memory and attention problems may follow preemies into adulthood

December 5, 2011
Babies born at a very low birth weight are more likely to have memory and attention problems when they become adults than babies born at a low to normal weight, according to a study published in the December 6, 2011, print ...

Recommended for you

High-fat diet in pregnancy can cause mental health problems in offspring

July 21, 2017
A high-fat diet not only creates health problems for expectant mothers, but new research in an animal model suggests it alters the development of the brain and endocrine system of their offspring and has a long-term impact ...

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.