Vol. 2, No. 2 , 1996, Page 5

POVERTY IS A STRONG RISK FACTOR for low IQ and cognitive problems. But good nutrition can counteract some of poverty's deleterious effects, according to research by Ernesto Pollitt and colleagues.

Pollitt et al. studied two groups of children and young adults in Guatemala. Years earlier, one group had received a highly nutritious dietary supplement, called Atole, in infancy. The other received Fresco, a less nutritious supplement. At the time Pollitt and colleagues studied them, the individuals were between the ages of 11 and 27.

The individuals who had received Atole in infancy, the researchers say, performed markedly better on most cognitive tests than those who had received Fresco. In fact, they say, Atole actually functioned as a "social equalizer."

"Individuals who regularly consumed... Atole before the age of two performed at about the same level on most tests, such as tests of vocabulary skills, regardless of economic status," the researchers note. "But the performance of those given [Fresco] varied with poverty level. Evidently, good nutrition early in life can help counteract the destructive effects of poverty on intellectual development."


"Malnutrition, poverty, and intellectual development," J. Larry Brown and Ernesto Pollitt, Scientific American, February 1996.

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