World Hunger, Malnutrition and Brain Development of Children

Eny Palupi, Ahmad Sulaeman, Angelika Ploeger


Hunger is still a major problem faced by people in the world especially in some areas in developing countries, and this condition is a cause of undernutrition. Insufficient nutrition during the early stages of life may adversely influence brain development. It was observed from my own research conducted in Bogor, Indonesia, that children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM, body mass index or BMI for age z score < -3) (N=54) had significantly (p<0.05) lower memory ability score (46.22±1.38) compared to normal children (BMI for age z score -2 ≤ z ≤ 1) (N=91) (51.56±1.24). Further, children with Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM, BMI for age z score -3 ≤ z <-2) tended to (p<0.1) have lower memory ability (50.08±1.58) than the normal children. On the other hand, overnutrition among children also might impair the brain function. The study revealed that children who are overweight (BMI for age z score 1 < z ≤ 2) (N=8) significantly (p<0.05) had lower memory ability score (46.13±4.50) compared to the normal children. This study also revealed that obese children (BMI for age z score > 2) (N=6) tended to (p<0.1) have lower memory ability score (50.33±5.64) than the normal children. It is therefore very important to maintain children at a normal BMI, not being undernourished (SAM and MAM categories) on one side and not being overnourished (overweight and obesity categories) on the other side in order to optimise their brain development. This could be achieved through providing children with an adequate and balanced nutrient supply via food.

Keywords: Hunger; Malnutrition; Brain development

Submitted: 15 September 2013; Revised: 22 October 2013; Accepted for publication: 12 November 2013; Published :20 December 2013


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