Lower birth weight and poor diet in childhood can lead to poor learning and behaviour in children, particularly girls, according to a new study.
Researchers from Australia's Monash University and Taiwan's National Defence Medical Centre as well as the National Health Research Institute, found girls with lower birth weight experienced a greater inability to learn and weaker overall competence than girls of normal birth weight.
The study linked the national birth registry to Taiwan's Nutrition and Health Survey to examine possible relationships between lower birth weight, childhood diet and learning outcomes in children between six and 13 years old, the journal Research in Developmental Disabilities reports.
Co-author Mark Wahlqvist, emeritus professor from Monash University's Asia Pacific Health, said the findings suggested girls' cognitive and social development was susceptible to birth weight and quality of diet, according to a Monash statement.
"We found girls with a birth weight less than 2,700 grams were more likely to show an inability to learn, have relationship problems, were unhappy and socially impaired," Wahlqvist said.
"It is not only the diet during childhood, but also that of the mother and probably the father, reflected in birth weight that may affect a child's learning ability," he added.
The researchers found that although there were major differences in the results between girls with lower birth weight and those with normal birth weight, there were no significant differences among boys.
"Fortunately, it seems possible that a nutritionally deprived low birth weight girl is not irreversibly committed to neuro-developmental impairment if a quality diet is available after birth," Wahlqvist said.