Associations between growth from birth to 18 years, intelligence, and schooling in a Brazilian cohort

Ana Maria Baptista Menezes, Paula D. Oliveira, Fernando C. Wehrmeister, Luciana Anselmi, Helen Gonçalves, Reynaldo Martorell, Robert E. Black, Fernando C. Barros, Cesar G. Victora

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Growth faltering in the first 1000 d is associated with lower human capital among adults. The existence of a second window of opportunity for nutritional interventions during adolescence has been postulated. Objectives: We aimed to verify the associations between growth from birth to 18 y and intelligence and schooling in a cohort. Methods: A total of 5249 hospital-born infants in Pelotas, Brazil, were enrolled during 1993. Follow-up visits to random subsamples took place at 6, 12, and 48 mo and to the full cohort at 11, 15, and 18 y. Weight and length/height were collected in all visits. The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale was applied at age 18 y, and primary school completion was recorded. Conditional length/height and conditional BMI were calculated and expressed as z scores according to the WHO Growth Standards. These express the difference between observed and expected size at a given age based on a regression that includes earlier anthropometric measures. Analyses were adjusted for income, parental education, maternal skin color and smoking, and breastfeeding duration. Results: In the adjusted analyses, participants with conditional length ≥1 z score at 1 y had mean intelligence quotient (IQ) scores at 18 y 4.50 points (95% CI: 1.08, 7.92) higher than those with conditional length ≤-1 at 1 y. For height-for-age at 4 y, this difference was equal to 3.70 (95% CI: 0.49, 6.90) IQ points. There were no associations between conditional height at 11, 15, or 18 y and IQ. For the same previously mentioned comparison, the prevalence ratio for less than primary schooling was 1.42 (95% CI: 1.12, 1.80) for conditional height at 1 y. There were no consistent associations with conditional BMI. Conclusions: Our findings show that adolescent growth is not associated with intelligence and schooling, and are consistent with the literature on the associations between intelligence and schooling and early linear growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-194
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • body mass index
  • cohort studies
  • conditional growth
  • intelligence
  • intelligence quotient
  • linear growth
  • schooling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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