Starving Kid
Impact of malnutrition on children persists even after proper treatment (FeedMyStarvingChildren/Flickr)FeedMyStarvingChildren/Flickr

Experiencing poverty in childhood can affect proper development of the brain, a new study reveals. However, the study published in JAMA Pediatrics found that a nurturing parenting helped fix the problem.

According to the background information provided in the study, poverty has been known to cause poor cognitive skills, thus affecting children's ability to excel in studies. The new study followed 145 preschool children, aged between six and 12, enrolled in a depression study. Joan Luby and colleagues, from the Washington University School of Medicine in the US, used imaging to measure brain volumes of the participants. They analysed white and cortical gray matter; hippocampus and amygdala volumes.

The authors found that poverty in early childhood was associated with smaller brain volumes at school and teenage days. However, the type of parenting the children received influenced the result. "Poverty was associated with smaller white and cortical gray matter and hippocampal and amygdala volumes," the authors, wrote. "The effects of poverty on hippocampal volume were mediated by caregiving support/hostility on the left and right, as well as stressful life events on the left."

Concerned with the findings, the researchers urged parents and caregivers to provide better support and care to their little ones. "The finding that the effects of poverty on hippocampal development are mediated through caregiving and stressful life events further underscores the importance of high-quality early childhood caregiving, a task that can be achieved through parenting education and support, as well as through preschool programs that provide high-quality supplementary caregiving and safe haven to vulnerable young children," the researchers said in a news release.

The importance of a nutritious diet at childhood is well-known. Breast milk and formula milk are the best recommended foods for babies after birth. They provide all the nutrients and vitamins required for the baby's growth and development in the initial stages. According to health experts, any time between four and six months, mothers can start supplementing breast milk or formula milk with solid food. Research in the past has shown that lack of proper nutrition at childhood caused social withdrawal, delayed development of motor skills plus physical growth and affected writing and reading skills of children,

According to experts at the UNICEF, life during the first three years from birth is important and malnutrition can cause permanent damages to health. They recommend mothers to feed their infants foods which are rich in nutrients and iron to meet the baby's growing needs and to increase the intake of vitamin A and iodine. They warned that vitamin A deficiency can cause blindness in children and make them more prone to deadly diseases like measles, diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia. Similarly, iodine deficiency can cause learning disabilities and brain damage.

Children are always recommended to consume lots of fruits and vegetables for a healthy growth. According to the WHO, insufficient fruit and vegetable consumption can increase the risk of developing a wide range of deadly diseases like cancer, heart diseases and strokes. The organization recommends consuming at least 400 g of fruit and vegetables a day.