Early nutritional status influences future outcomes, says study

There is evidence to show that nutritional status during infancy and early childhood has an effect on later nutritional outcomes, said Priya Rampal, post-doctoral fellow, formerly working with the Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA) project at MSSRF, while presenting her doctoral thesis work at the Foundation.

“There is an overwhelming influence (almost 70%) of early nutritional status i.e. the first thousand days, in later nutritional outcomes”, Priya pointed out. The first 1000 days of a child’s life is also referred to as the window of opportunity.

Her work uses longitudinal data, i.e analyzing a specific sample over a period of time, from the Young Lives study of a cohort of 2000 children from a pro-poor sample born in the year 2000-01. To measure the appropriate timing of nutrition-specific interventions i.e. earlier versus later childhood interventions under-nutrition, the study follows the catch-up and faltering of nutritional status over two time periods i.e from infancy to toddlerhood (2002 to 2006 in the sample) and pre-adolescence (2006 to 2009).

Her study has also shown there is evidence that probability of catch-up later on declines with poorer nutritional status. “However, supportive or compensatory programmes have a positive effect on preventing faltering and promoting catch-up in nutritional status”, she said. Some such programmes have been the ICDS and the mid-day meal schemes run by the government.

“Therefore, it is important to focus on child health and nutrition not just in the window of opportunity, but also in later stages to ensure a good nutritional growth path for children”, Priya added.