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Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2012;21(4):476-86.

Micronutrient interventions on cognitive performance of children aged 5-15 years in developing countries.

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Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Faculty of Medicine and Health, International Medical University, 57000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


It is estimated that more than 200 million young children worldwide fail to reach their potential in cognitive development owing to undernutrition. Numerous studies have assessed the effects of micronutrient supplementation on growth and cognitive development in infants, toddlers and preschoolers. However, micronutrient interventions on the cognitive performance of older children are limited. This article seeks to provide an update on micronutrient interventions and cognitive outcomes among children aged 5-15 years in developing countries. A total of 13 randomized controlled trials published since 2000 were identified. Majority of these studies assessed the effects of micronutrient-fortified foods on various domains of cognitive function. Among key micronutrients assessed were iron, zinc, iodine and vitamin A. This review found a lack of consistency in the impact of micronutrient supplementation on intelligence, long term mental functions and school examination grades of the children. A beneficial effect of micronutrient supplementation on short term memory was more consistently reported. Overall, the evidence from this review for the impact of micronutrients on cognitive performance in older children remains equivocal. In light of the growing interest on the influence of nutrition on cognition, it is important that culturally-appropriate and sufficiently sensitive assessment tools be used for measuring the desired cognitive outcomes that are most likely to be affected by the nutrients under study.

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