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Weight Gain in the First Month Could Mean Higher IQ for Your Baby

Update Date: Jun 17, 2013 11:25 AM EDT

When babies are born, keeping them nourished and well fed are vital in promoting healthy cognitive and physical growth. Several studies have looked into the effects of different levels of weight gain. One study conducted by scientists from the University of Sydney reported that too much weight gain during infancy could increase the risk of heart disease, obesity and high blood pressure later on in life. This study focused on weight gain within the first 18 months of life. A newer study conducted by researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia found that weight gain and an increase in head size during the first month of life could be tied to higher IQ (intelligence quotient) rates later on.

The researchers, with lead author Dr. Lisa Smithers from the University's School of Population Health, reviewed data from over 13,800 full-term births. Based from these medical records, the researchers calculated that infants who gained 40 percent of their birth weight within the first four weeks scored 1.5 points higher on the IQ test by the time they reached six-years-old. This rate was compared to infants who only put on 15 percent of their birth weight within the same time period. On top of the initial weight gain, the researchers found that infants with the largest growth in head circumference had higher IQs.

"Head circumference is an indicator of brain volume, so a great increase in head circumference in a newborn suggests more rapid brain growth," Smithers explained reported by Medical Xpress. "Those children who gained the most weight scored especially high on verbal IQ at the age of six. This may be because the neural structures for verbal IQ develop earlier in life, which means that rapid weight gain during that neonatal period could be having a direct cognitive benefit for the child."

This new study is not the first one to tie an early healthy diet to IQ scores. These findings continue to stress the importance of proper nutrition for babies, especially within the first month. Feeding methods, such as breastfeeding could be even more important for a newborn. The researchers stressed that if infants have difficulty with feeding, intervention must occur immediately.  The study was published in Pediatrics.

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