A long-term study shows that better nutrition during the first two years of life earned adult wages nearly 50 percent higher than peers, according to media reports Saturday.
The study in Guatemala, published in the British medical journal The Lancet, is the first to show direct evidence of the effects of early childhood nutrition programs on adult economic productivity and incomes.
"Our study is the first to find a direct link between nutrition in childhood and economic productivity in later life," researcher John Hoddinott from the Washington, DC-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) said.
The study, led by John Hoddinott of the IFPRI, analysed data on 1,424 Guatemalans aged 25 to 42 who grew up in four villages in the same region.
From 1969-1977, four rural communities in Guatemala participated in a food supplementation study, in which children received one of the two supplements fortified equally with micro nutrients. The first supplement was high in protein and energy; the second contained no protein and was low in energy.
During 2002 to 2004, researchers returned to Guatemala to interview individuals who had participated in the nutrition supplement program as children. They collected information about all income-generating activities, including type of work; hours, days, and months worked; and fringe benefits received.
They found that the adults who had eaten the food with high protein and energy pulled in hourly wages 46 percent higher than those who had been given the low-calorie alternative.
"This research demonstrates that improving early childhood nutrition in developing countries is not only crucial for the physical growth of children, but is also a wise, long-term economic investment," said Reynaldo Martorell, who also was one of the researchers who conducted the original study in Guatemala.
(Agencies via Xinhua February 2, 2008)