[The impact of malnutrition on brain development, intelligence and school work performance]

Arch Latinoam Nutr. 2001 Mar;51(1):64-71.
[Article in Spanish]


The findings from several authors confirm that undernutrition at an early age affects brain growth and intellectual quotient. Most part of students with the lowest scholastic achievement scores present suboptimal head circumference (anthropometric indicator of past nutrition and brain development) and brain size. On the other hand, intellectual quotient measured through intelligence tests (Weschler-R, or the Raven Progressives Matrices Test) has been described positively and significantly correlated with brain size measured by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); in this respect, intellectual ability has been recognized as one of the best predictors of scholastic achievement. Considering that education is the change lever for the improvement of the quality of life and that the absolute numbers of undernourished children have been increasing in the world, is of major relevance to analyse the long-term effects of undernutrition at an early age. The investigations related to the interrelationships between nutritional status, brain development, intelligence and scholastic achievement are of greatest importance, since nutritional problems affect the lowest socioeconomic stratum with negative consequences manifested in school-age, in higher levels of school dropout, learning problems and a low percentage of students enrolling into higher education. This limits the development of people by which a clear economic benefit to increase adult productivity for government policies might be successful preventing childhood malnutrition.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chile
  • Humans
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Intelligence*
  • Nutrition Disorders / complications*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Underachievement*