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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 29  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 82-84

Nutritional status and intellectual development in children: A community-based study from rural Southern India

1 Department of Community Health, Christian Medical College, Vellore 632002, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Department of Psychiatry, Christian Medical College, Vellore 632002, Tamil Nadu, India

Correspondence Address:
K S Jacob
Department of Psychiatry, Christian Medical College, Vellore 632002, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

PMID: 27586211

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Background. There is a dearth of recent data on the relationship between nutritional status and intellectual development among children in India. To determine whether such a relationship exists, we studied children in a rural area of Tamil Nadu. Methods. We stratified villages in Kaniyambadi block, Tamil Nadu, and recruited consecutive children who satisfied the study criteria. We assessed nutritional status by measuring height and weight and recording chronological age, and calculated indices weight-for-age, height-for-age, weight-forheight and their Z scores. We assessed intellectual development using the Indian adaptation of the Vineland Social Maturity Scale. We used a case-control framework to determine the relationship and logistic regression to adjust for common confounders. Results. We recruited 114 children between the ages of 12 and 72 months. Z score means (weight-for-age -1.36; height-for-age -1.42; weight-for-height -0.78) were much less than 0 and indicate undernutrition. Z score standard deviations (weight-for-age 1.04; height-for-age 1.18; weightfor- height 1.06) were within the WHO recommended range for good quality of nutrition data suggesting reduced measurement errors and incorrect reporting of age. The frequency distributions of population Z scores suggest high undernutrition, wasting and medium stunting. A tenth of the population (9.6%) had values to suggest borderline/below average intelligence (social quotient <89). Lower height-forage, height-for-age Z score and weight-for-height Z score were significantly associated with a lower social quotient. These relationships remained statistically significant after adjusting for sex and socioeconomic status using logistic regression. Conclusion. Chronic undernutrition, wasting and stunting and their association with lower intellectual development demand an urgent re-assessment of national food policies and programmes.

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