June 18, 2013
Weight Gain In Infant’s First Month Linked To Higher IQ
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Researchers from the University of Adelaide have discovered a link between a baby's weight in the first month after birth and a higher IQ by early school age.
The scientists reported in the journal Pediatrics they found weight gain and increased head size during the first month of a baby's life could be linked to a child having a higher IQ. The team came to this conclusion after analyzing data from over 13,800 children who were born full-term.
According to the findings, babies who put on 40 percent of their birthweight in the first four weeks had an IQ 1.5 points higher by the time they were six years of age, compared with babies who only put on 15 percent of their birthweight. The babies with the biggest growth in head circumference also had the highest IQs.
"Head circumference is an indicator of brain volume, so a greater increase in head circumference in a newborn baby suggests more rapid brain growth," said lead author of the study, Dr Lisa Smithers from the University of Adelaide's School of Population Health.
"Overall, newborn children who grew faster in the first four weeks had higher IQ scores later in life."
Smithers also noted children who gained the most weight scored especially high on verbal IQ at age six. This could be because the neural structures for verbal IQ develop earlier in life, which means the rapid weight gain during that neonatal period could be having a direct cognitive benefit for the child.
Previous studies found a link between early postnatal diet and IQ, but this is the first study of its kind to focus on the IQ benefits of rapid weight gain in the first month of life for healthy newborn babies.
The research team says the study highlights the need for successful feeding for newborn babies.
"We know that many mothers have difficulty establishing breastfeeding in the first weeks of their baby's life," said Smithers. "The findings of our study suggest that if infants are having feeding problems, there needs to be early intervention in the management of that feeding."
A 2009 study led by Dr. Betty R. Vohr of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island discovered premature birth was linked to a lower IQ and more developmental problems. This study found babies born with a very low birth weight grew up with an IQ that was 12 to 14 points lower than the control group. This team said these findings indicate that extended efforts to prevent serious brain injury in preterm infants are needed.