Research Highlight

Stunted growth related to cognitive performance

doi:10.1038/nindia.2014.2 Published online 17 January 2014

Researchers have found that stunted school-age children have significantly poorer short-term memory, retrieval ability and visuospatial ability1 .

Stunting has been significantly associated with lifetime morbidity and poorer cognitive outcomes in children. Several studies have examined the relationship between stunting, catch-up growth and cognitive performance in young populations. However no study has explored this relationship in school-age children.

The researchers used data from three different nutritional intervention studies conducted over a 4-year period on school-age children in the southern Indian city of Bangalore to assess these relationships. They conducted a battery of cognitive tests before each intervention to determine whether stunting status was related to cognitive performance. The researchers also repeated these tests after 6 months to assess whether changes to stunting status was related to cognitive advancement.

Their independent 't-tests' showed that stunted children had significantly poorer performance on short-term memory, retrieval ability and visuospatial ability tests. However, they found no significant difference in the change in cognitive scores following nutritional interventions over a 6-month period between those who remained stunted and those who were no longer stunted.

The researchers conclude that stunting is associated with cognitive ability in school-age children. However, the reversal of these effects in this age group may be quite difficult.


  1. Sokolovic, N. et al. Catch-up growth does not associate with cognitive development in Indian school-age children. Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 68, 14-18 (2014) | Article | PubMed |