Features : Malnutrition Among Malaysian Children Affecting Iq

By Nurul Halawati Azhari

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) — A study on children in four Asian countries has shown that a child’s IQ (Intelligence Quotient) is influenced by their dietary intake.

The study by the Southeast Asian Nutrition Surveys (SEANUTS) on the dietary habits of children in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam showed that poor nutrition resulted in lower cognitive performance.

Dr Alvin Ng Lai Oon from the Psychology Department of Sunway University said children deprived of proper nutrition were also unable to actively participate in the classroom.

“They are also likely to score below average in IQ tests,” he said in the workshop preview “Uncover the Power of Nutrition to your Child’s Development”, that would be held in January 2015.


Dr Ng, who is also the Cognitive Development Researcher for the SEANUTS study said the Malaysian results revealed that many of the country’s children were malnutritioned.

Malnutrition can cause children to be thin, underweight and stunted in height. It is also contributes to the rising obesity among children in the country, where Malaysia’s children rank the highest among the four countries.

Fortunately, Malaysia ranks the lowest among the four in terms of children who are thin, underweight and stunted in height.

Malaysia also currently holds the record for the highest number of obese people in Southeast Asia.

The study on children aged 6-12 years old in the four countries showed that dietary intake also influenced a child’s ability to think, form opinions, comprehend and process their environment.

Dr Ng said good nutrition was essential for performing mental tasks that hone cognitive performance.

“The ability to engage in mental activites like memorisation, planning, logical thinking, problem-solving, inventing and imagination help develop and increase their intelligence,” he explained.

Dr Ng said proper nutrition develops the brain, while intellectual stimulation from parents and caregivers help nurture natural curiosity, creativity and the desire to learn and explore.


Consultant Paediatrician Dr Yong Junina, in elaborating Dr Ng’s points said that parents should look out for milestones that their children might have missed.

Missing certain mental, physical, emotional and social milestones can be indicators of irregularities in their children’s growth.

She said specialists usually assess the growth process of a child through observation and parental testimony.

For example, children develop their sight from the ages of one to two years old. Their ability to walk and move on their own helps them see, touch and taste more of the world around them. This is when their sense of curiosity is heightened, making them more eager to explore.

From 2-4 years old, their motor skills will improve and their verbal communication clearer.

Such skills are essential for learning and for the application of what they will learn later on in life.


Parents are recommended to provide their children a diet varying in nutritional content to ensure good brain development.

The Head of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Nutritional Sciences Programme, Prof Dr Poh Bee Koon said that different stages of development required different nutritional intake to ensure healthy mental growth.

“The development of children’s brain and muscles are not only essential to activities like talking and walking, but is also closely correlated to behavioural performance.

“Parents should provide good sources of protein, amino acids, DHA, magnesium, vitamin B and calcium,” Dr Poh explained.

Magnesium, for example, is important in facilitating the learning process and improving memory. It helps children aged four years and above adapt to what is learned through the creative process.

She however discouraged the consumption of supplements as it might cause more harm than benefit.

“It is better to obtain the nutrients from the foods prepared by parents at home. However, if parents still insist on giving supplements, it is better to just give multivitamins,” she said.

Dr Poh, who is the main researcher of SEANUTS Malaysia said dietary intake was one of the main factors in influencing children’s continued development and growth.

“Poor nutrition will not only stunt physical and mental growth, but compromise their immune system.”

Parents with children between the ages of one and six who are interested in joining the workshop can start registering from Dec 1.

For further information, contact the toll-free number 1800-22-1233 or email mail@bridgespr.com.my.


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