Neonatal growth significantly correlates with early elementary IQ

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1.  Neonatal weight gain (NWG) and head circumference gain (HCG) were associated with increased IQ at 6.5 years of age. 

2. NWG and HCG were not significantly associated with behavior at 6.5 years old. 

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good) 

Study Rundown: Previous studies correlate rates of growth in childhood, especially in the first year, with improved cognition. This study is the first to look at growth during the neonatal period and its impact on cognition and behavior. Using data from the Promotion of Breastfeeding Intervention Trial (PROBIT) in Belarus, this study examined the impact of NWG and HCG on cognitive and behavioral follow up at 6.5 years old. Results showed a positive correlation between NWG and HCG on intelligence quotient (IQ) scores. No significant association was found between NWG or HCG and behavior.  While a significant correlation between measures of growth and IQ were observed, a causal relationship cannot be implied. This study adds insight into the impact of growth during the first month on cognitive development, supporting the importance of adequate neonatal feeding.   

Click to read the study in Pediatrics

Relevant Reading: To what extent is failure to thrive in infancy associated with poorer cognitive development?

In-Depth [Cohort Study]: This study used data from PROBIT, a cluster-randomized controlled trial of breastfeeding intervention of 17,046 infants and their mothers. All infants were singleton births, over 37 weeks gestation, over 2500g and born between 1996 and 1997 in Belarus. NWG was calculated as weight gain at 1 month divided by birth weight and multiplied by 100%.  HCG was calculated as a percentage gain of initial head circumference. Cognitive ability and behavior were assessed at 6.5 year follow-up and measured by the Wechsler Abbreviated Scales of Intelligence (WASI) and by both parent and teacher scores on the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), respectively. Analyses were controlled for maternal smoking during pregnancy, education and occupation of parents, area of residence, number of older siblings, and participation in the treatment arm of the PROBIT trial. Results showed that the top quartile children by NWG and HCG had significantly higher full-scale IQ scores than children in the lowest quartile (1.5, 95% CI 0.8-2.2; 2.5, 95% CI: 0.9-2.2), respectively. No significant association was found between NWG or HCG and behavior, as determined by SDQ scoring.

By Laurel Wickberg and Leah H. Carr

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