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J Clin Diagn Res. 2017 Mar;11(3):CC01-CC04. doi: 10.7860/JCDR/2017/22181.9383. Epub 2017 Mar 1.

Impact of Nutritional Status on Cognition in Institutionalized Orphans: A Pilot Study.

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Undergraduate Student, Department of Physiology, Alake Janardhana Shetty Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre, Mangalore, Karnataka, India.
Associate Professor, Department of Physiology, Academy of Medical Sciences, Pariyaram, Kerala, India.
Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Academy of Medical Sciences, Pariyaram, Kerala, India.



Proper nutrition is critical for maximizing brain function and enhancing learning. There is accumulating evidence that early malnutrition, marked by stunting, is associated with long-term deficits in cognitive and academic performance, even when social and psychological differences are controlled. All over the world, children living without permanent parental care are at a heightened risk for under-nutrition, putting their health and development in great jeopardy.


To assess the nutritional and cognitive status in institutionalized orphans which might help to formulate effective interventions for improving the nutritional status of vulnerable children in future.


This cross-sectional, study included 70 children (35 orphans and 35 non-orphans). Their anthropometric measurements (height, weight, and BMI) were measured and cognition was assessed using subsets of Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised (WISC-R): Block design and Digit span. The data obtained was subjected to descriptive statistical analysis.


18.57% (13) of children had stunting, 15.71% (11) had wasting, 22.86% (16) were underweight, and 17.14% (12) showed thinness. Mean±SD of Block design in non-orphans was significantly higher compared to orphans (p-value 0·05). Mean±SD of Digit span in non-orphans was significantly higher compared to orphans (p-value 0·000). For Block design, there was moderate positive correlation with nutritional status based on Z-scores (p-value <0·05). Digit span also showed moderate positive correlation (p-value <0·05).


The results of our study indicate that children in orphanages have high rates of both malnutrition and cognitive delay compared to the non-orphans and there was a direct correlation between both the variables. If orphanages are here to stay as a last resort for children deprived of a family there is an urgent need to improve the institutional environment in order to foster the development of millions of children in orphanages around the world.


Block design; Digit span; Nutrition; Z-scores

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