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BMC Public Health. 2019 Jun 13;19(Suppl 4):541. doi: 10.1186/s12889-019-6856-4.

Low socioeconomic status and severe obesity are linked to poor cognitive performance in Malaysian children.

Author information

1
Nutritional Sciences Programme & Centre for Community Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Jalan Raja Muda Abdul Aziz, 50300, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. pbkoon@ukm.edu.my.
2
Nutritional Sciences Programme & Centre for Community Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Jalan Raja Muda Abdul Aziz, 50300, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
3
FrieslandCampina, Amersfoort, LE 3818, The Netherlands.
4
Department of Psychology, School of Science and Technology, Sunway University, 47500, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Socioeconomic factors and nutritional status have been associated with childhood cognitive development. However, previous Malaysian studies had been conducted with small populations and had inconsistent results. Thus, this present study aims to determine the association between socioeconomic and nutritional status with cognitive performance in a nationally representative sample of Malaysian children.

METHODS:

A total of 2406 Malaysian children aged 5 to 12 years, who had participated in the South East Asian Nutrition Surveys (SEANUTS), were included in this study. Cognitive performance [non-verbal intelligence quotient (IQ)] was measured using Raven's Progressive Matrices, while socioeconomic characteristics were determined using parent-report questionnaires. Body mass index (BMI) was calculated using measured weight and height, while BMI-for-age Z-score (BAZ) and height-for-age Z-score (HAZ) were determined using WHO 2007 growth reference.

RESULTS:

Overall, about a third (35.0%) of the children had above average non-verbal IQ (high average: 110-119; superior: ≥120 and above), while only 12.2% were categorized as having low/borderline IQ (< 80). Children with severe obesity (BAZ > 3SD), children from very low household income families and children whose parents had only up to primary level education had the highest prevalence of low/borderline non-verbal IQ, compared to their non-obese and higher socioeconomic counterparts. Parental lack of education was associated with low/borderline/below average IQ [paternal, OR = 2.38 (95%CI 1.22, 4.62); maternal, OR = 2.64 (95%CI 1.32, 5.30)]. Children from the lowest income group were twice as likely to have low/borderline/below average IQ [OR = 2.01 (95%CI 1.16, 3.49)]. Children with severe obesity were twice as likely to have poor non-verbal IQ than children with normal BMI [OR = 2.28 (95%CI 1.23, 4.24)].

CONCLUSIONS:

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds (that is those from very low income families and those whose parents had primary education or lower) and children with severe obesity are more likely to have poor non-verbal IQ. Further studies to investigate the social and environmental factors linked to cognitive performance will provide deeper insights into the measures that can be taken to improve the cognitive performance of Malaysian children.

KEYWORDS:

Child; Cognition; Economic status; Intelligence; Malaysia; Nutritional status; Obesity

PMID:
31196019
PMCID:
PMC6565598
DOI:
10.1186/s12889-019-6856-4
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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