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close this bookChronic Energy Deficiency : Consequences and Related Issues (International Dietary Energy Consultative Group - IDECG, 1987, 201 pages)
close this folderPregnancy, lactation and childhood: Report of working group 1*
close this folder4. Children
View the document(introductory text...)
View the document4.1. Energy supply and physical growth of infants and children
View the document4.2. Energy supply and physical activity of children
View the document4.3. Chronic energy deficiency and development
View the document4.4. Causes of inadequate energy intakes in children

4.3. Chronic energy deficiency and development

Analysis of the effects of chronic energy deficiency on the child's development is complicated by the fact that it is associated with many other handicaps of poverty.

Small body size from infancy and childhood and low weight-for-height maintain low but statistically significant correlations (.20-.30) with both comparatively low intelligence test scores and poor school achievement. These correlations are consistent across low-income populations in developing countries and are reasonably explained by the effects of nutritional history. However, these correlations do not explain the nature of the relationships between undernutrition and brain function; they are only a reflection of a possible bi-directional effect of a history of undernutrition.

Small body size and low weight-for-height have also been associated with low activity levels among infants and young children.

There is no single definitive work that has tested adequately the developmental impact of supplementation in early life. The data that exist point out that, among nutritionally-at-risk populations, supplementation has a mild but important beneficial effect on mental and social-emotional development during infancy and the preschool years. Likewise, supplementation increases activity level among nutritionally at risk infants and children.

In comparison to the effects of nutritional supplementation the effects of multifocal interventions (i.e., supplementation, health, education) are substantively greater. These beneficial effects are apparent even if the intervention begins after the first three years of life or passed the so-called critical period of brain growth.

Research needs in this area may be summarized as follows:

1. Determine the social environmental and health factors that increase the probabilities of developmental deviations among nutritionally-at-risk infants and children.

2. Determine the nature of activities that are particularly vulnerable under conditions of chronic energy deficiency.

3. Determine the cost to cognitive and social-emotional development of maintenance of energy balance by reduced activity among infants and children.

4. Establish the educational effects of undernutrition during the school period.