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Early Supplementary Feeding and Cognition: Effects over Two Decades

Ernesto Pollitt, Kathleen S. Gorman, Patrice L. Engle, Reynaldo Martorell, Juan Rivera, Theodore D. Wachs and Nevin S. Scrimshaw
Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development
Vol. 58, No. 7, Early Supplementary Feeding and Cognition: Effects over Two Decades (1993), pp. i+iii-vi+1-118
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1166162
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1166162
Page Count: 123
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Early Supplementary Feeding and Cognition: Effects over Two Decades
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Abstract

The study reported in this Monograph of the effects of early supplementary feeding on cognition included two data collection periods: a longitudinal investigation spanning the years 1969-1977 and a cross-sectional follow-up carried out in 1988-1989. The study was conducted in four rural villages in Guatemala and compared the differential effects of exposure in childhood (0-7 years) to an Atole supplement (11.5 g of protein; 163 kcal) or a Fresco supplement (59 kcal) on performance on a battery of psychoeducational and information-processing tests in adolescence and young adulthood (11-24 years). In this report, particular attention is given to a cohort of subjects who were exposed to the supplement prenatally and during at least the first 2 years of postnatal life. Data on this subsample are contrasted with those on a cohort of subjects who received the supplement only after 24 months of life. The Monograph also reports results from an analysis of the supplementation effects in infancy and early childhood. Consistent differences between groups on the psychoeducational tests were observed. Adolescents from Atole villages scored significantly higher on tests of knowledge, numeracy, reading, and vocabulary than Fresco subjects. Atole was also associated with a faster reaction time in information-processing tasks. Significant interactions helped identify two groups who benefited more from the Atole treatment: those at the lowest levels of socioeconomic status and those who attained the highest levels of primary schooling. The consistent differences in test performance established in the follow-up assessment contrast sharply with the few and less pronounced between-group differences observed in the infancy and preschool periods. After close scrutiny of alternative hypotheses, it is concluded that nutritional differences provide the strongest explanation for the test performance differences observed in the follow-up between the subjects exposed to the Atole and those exposed to the Fresco supplement.

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