We know that malnutrition is a major contributor to stunted growth. And now, thanks to a study conducted by the Journal of Nutrition, we now know that children who received poor nutrition in infancy can recover growth in childhood and avoid impairment to their cognitive skills.
The study found that children whose growth was stunted in infancy - at 1 year of age - but who then experienced "catch-up growth" by 5 years old had verbal vocabulary and quantitative test scores that did not differ from children who were not stunted at either age. Children who remained stunted into early childhood had significantly lower quantitative scores.
The study was based on data from more than 1,600 Peruvian children. The children were divided into four groups: those whose growth was not stunted; those who were stunted in infancy but made height gains by early childhood; those who were stunted in childhood and those stunted in both infancy and childhood. A child is considered stunted if they are short for their age as a result of illness or inadequate diet or both.
The research found that those children who were stunted but then experienced "catch-up" growth were influenced by maternal height, the severity of stunting before 18 months and had grandparents living at home. The study also showed that those children with recovery from stunting performed as well as those that did not experience stunted growth on cognitive skills tests, proving that recovery from stunted growth is possible provided the child receives help early on.
To read the full report, visit http://jn.nutrition.org/content/early/2010/09/15/jn.109.118927.full.pdf+html