Keep popping those prenatal vitamins! A new study published in the Lancet Global Health journal says taking multi-micronutrient supplements (MMN)—prenatal vitamins, essentially—during pregnancy will actually make your kid smarter in the long run.
In the 2012-2014 study, conducted by an international group of researchers and funded by the Government of Canada through Grand Challenges Canada's Saving Brains program, researchers tested nearly 3,000 Indonesian kids ages nine to 12 whose mothers had either taken a MMN or a folic acid supplement. Long-term benefits were observed in the MMN group: Kids showed particular strength in procedural memory, which is tied to things like academic performance and learning new skills like driving, typing, reading, math and languages. Researchers say these improvements in procedural memory are equivalent to a half-year of schooling.
The study also notes the other crucial factors in growing smart, academically successful kids: Plenty of nurturing early in life, happy moms and educated parents. In fact, researchers go on to say that a child's nurturing environment is far more important to his brain development, intellectual ability, memory and fine motor skills than biological factors such as mom's nutrition during pregnancy, low birth weight, premature birth, poor infant physical growth and nutritional status.
"This study shows that mothers who take multiple micronutrient supplements during pregnancy can give their child an advantage in life," says Karlee Silver, VP of programs at Grand Challenges Canada. "But healthy development needs public health investments to go beyond bio-medical strategies aimed at mothers-to-be, expectant mothers, babies and children. Beefed-up efforts to improve the nurturing environment in which kids spend their first 1,000 days are also essential.”