Children of mums who had taken multiple micronutrient supplements had “measurably greater” cognitive ability, researchers have found.
The supplement boosted children's academic performance
The supplement boosted “procedural memory”, which is important for a child’s academic performance and daily life. It is tied to activities such as reading, arithmetic, reading, speaking, typing, understanding language, and learning sequences, rules, and categories.
The study was conducted by an international team including Harvard University, the University of California and the University of Lancaster, and published in the journal The Lancet Global Health.
It was carried out on almost 3,000 children in Indonesia aged between nine and 12, whose mothers had participated in an earlier study into the effects of supplements in pregnancy. The multivitamins used contained iron, folic acid, retinol, vitamin d, vitamin e, ascorbic acid, vitamin b, niacin, zinc, copper selenium and iodine.
Half of the women took the multivitamin while the other half took a standard tablet containing just iron and folic acid. Both pills were taken during pregnancy and for three months after giving birth.
Women who take a multivitamin while pregnant could boost their child’s intelligence by the equivalent of a whole school year
The study found that the children whose mums took the daily multivitamin performed as well in tests aged 9 to 12 as someone aged around six months older whose mum had taken the standard tablet.
Children of anaemic mothers who took MMNs, similar to pre-natal multivitamins, also scored higher in general intellectual ability, comparable to a full year of extra schooling.
The study also found that early life nurturing, happier mothers and educated parents all led to cleverer children. A nurturing environment was found to be more even more important than biological factors, such as good nutrition, for general intellectual ability, academic achievement and fine motor dexterity.
Study leader Dr Elizabeth Prado, from the Summit Institute of Development in Indonesia, said:
“Maternal multiple micronutrients had long-term benefits for child cognitive development at 9–12 years of age, thereby supporting its role in early childhood development. The persistent and discernible effects are remarkable."
”Dr Karlee Silver, from Grand Challenges Canada, which funded the research, said:
“This study shows that mothers who take multiple micronutrient supplements during pregnancy can give their child an advantage in life.”
Joel Spicer, from the Micronutrient Initiative, said:
“This study underscores the importance of providing micronutrients to pregnant women to help their children not only survive at birth but thrive later in life.”
The NHS says it is best to get vitamins from a healthy diet but suggests pregnant women take supplements containing folic acid and vitamin D.