Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Malnutrition in early years leads to low IQ and later antisocial behavior


Malnutrition in the first few years of life leads to antisocial and aggressive behavior throughout childhood and late adolescence, according to a new University of Southern California study.

"These are the first findings to show that malnutrition in the early postnatal years is associated with behavior problems through age 17," said Jianghong Liu, a postdoctoral fellow with USC’s Social Science Research Institute and the lead author of the study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry’s November issue.

"Identifying the early risk factors for this behavior in childhood and adolescence is an important first step for developing successful prevention programs for adult violence," she said. For 14 years, researchers followed the nutritional, behavioral and cognitive development of more than 1,000 children who lived on Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa.

The sample of boys and girls included children with Indian, Creole, Chinese, English and French ethnicities.

Researchers assessed their nutrition at age 3, looking for four indicators in particular:

  • angular stomatitis, or cracking in the lips and corners of the mouth that is caused by a deficiency of the B vitamin riboflavin;
  • hair dyspigmentation, a condition – found primarily in tropical regions – where children’s hair takes on a reddish-orange color due to protein deficiency;
  • sparse, thin hair created by a deficiency in protein, zinc and iron; and
  • anemia, which reflects iron deficiency.

The children’s intelligence level and cognitive ability were also tested, and social workers visited their homes to come up with a so-called adversity score that summarized factors such as the income, occupation, health, age and education levels of their parents and their overall living conditions.

At ages 8, 11 and 17 years, the researchers looked at how the children were behaving in school and at home.

At age 8, teachers gave feedback about whether the subjects were acting out in school with behavior ranging from irritability to picking fights with other children.

At age 11, the feedback came from parents who told researchers about whether their children lied, cheated, got into fights, bullied others, destroyed property or used obscene language.

At age 17, both parents and teachers reported on antisocial behavior such as stealing, drug use, destroying property or being deliberately cruel to others.

Over time, a link became evident between malnourishment and antisocial or aggressive behavior, said Adrian Raine, a co-author of the study and holder of the Robert Grandford Wright Professorship in Psychology in USC’s College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Compared to those in the control group – the group that did not suffer from nutritional deficiencies – malnourished children showed a 41 percent increase in aggression at age 8, a 10 percent increase in aggression and delinquency at age 11 and a 51 percent increase in violent and antisocial behavior at age 17.

While social class did not play a significant factor in behavior, intelligence level did, Raine said. "Poor nutrition, characterized by zinc, iron, vitamin B and protein deficiencies, leads to low IQ, which leads to later antisocial behavior," he said. "These are all nutrients linked to brain development."

Researchers also found that the more indicators of malnutrition there were, the greater the antisocial behavior. The findings have implications for the United States, Raine said, where 7 percent of toddlers suffer from iron deficiency, a number that jumps to between 9 percent and 16 percent in adolescent and female groups.

Iron deficiency is between 19 percent and 22 percent in black and Mexican American females, he said. "This is a problem in America. It’s not just a problem in the far-away Indian Ocean," Raine said. "If it’s causal, there’s an intervention implication there. At a societal level, should parents be thinking more about what kids are eating?"

The study also casts antisocial behavior in a light where it may be preventable. "There’s more to antisocial behavior than nutrition, but we argue that it is an important missing link," Raine said. "Biology is not destiny. We can change the biological disposition to antisocial and aggressive behavior."

The other authors were Sarnoff A. Mednick, a professor of psychology in USC College and director of the USC Social Science Research Institute, and Peter H. Venables, a professor of psychology at the University of York, England.

Usha Sutliff | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht New population data provide insight on aging, migration
31.08.2016 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht PRB projects world population rising 33 percent by 2050 to nearly 10 billion
25.08.2016 | Population Reference Bureau

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>