Undernutrition or malnutrition is one of the major problems prevalent among young children across the globe. It is suspected to lead to health issues, such as impaired cognitive function, affected nutritional status, and reduced cerebral blood flow.
A team of researchers from the Search Results Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy conducted a randomized controlled trial designed to evaluate the effects of food supplementation on health factors like cognitive function and overall nutritional status. The trial was conducted on 1059 children from 10 villages in Guinea-Bissau.
The participants were all aged from 15 months to 7 years, with children younger than 4 years being the primary population. The participants were given supervised isocaloric servings of a new food supplement (NEWSUP) five mornings each week for 23 weeks.
The outcome was an improved working memory, along with enhanced hemoglobin concentration, and index of cerebral blood flow in 90% of the participants. In children younger than 4, the food supplement increased working memory (rate ratio 1.20). In children aged 4 and older, NEWSUP had no significant effect on working memory or blood count, but it improved lean tissue.
The research concluded that childhood undernutrition is linked with long-term cognitive impairment. Supplementary feeding for 23 weeks could improve cognitive function, brain health, and nutritional status of children at risk of malnutrition.