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Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jan;99(1):122-9. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.063404. Epub 2013 Oct 16.

Supplemental feeding during pregnancy compared with maternal supplementation during lactation does not affect schooling and cognitive development through late adolescence.

Author information

Human Development Network, World Bank, Washington, DC (HA, ML, and AT); the International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC (HA); the Medical Research Council (MRC), International Nutrition Group, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom; and the MRC Keneba, MRC Unit, Fajara, The Gambia (SH, HM, and SEM).



The long-term impact of early malnutrition on human capital outcomes remains unclear, and existing evidence has come largely from observational studies.


We compared the impact of a nutritional supplement given during pregnancy or lactation in rural Gambia on educational performance and cognitive ability in offspring at their maturity.


This study was a follow-up of a randomized trial of prenatal high protein and energy supplementation conducted between 1989 and 1994. Subjects were 16-22 y of age at follow-up, and information was collected on schooling achievement and cognitive ability by using the Raven's progressive matrices test, Mill Hill vocabulary test, and forward and backward digit-span tests.


A total of 1459 individuals were traced and interviewed and represented 71% of the original cohort and 81% of the surviving cohort. There was no difference in cognitive ability or educational attainment between treatment groups by using any of the methods of assessment.


We have shown little evidence to support a long-term effect of prenatal protein-energy supplementation compared with supplementation during lactation on cognitive development in rural Gambians. This trial was registered at as ISRCTN72582014.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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