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Nutritional and cognitive deficits of school-age children: A study in helminth-endemic fishing and farming communities in Ghana

Marina Aferiba Tandoh (Department of Biochemistry and Biotechnology, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana)
Felix Charles Mills-Robertson (Department of Biochemistry and Biotechnology, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana)
Michael David Wilson (Department of Parasitology, Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, University of Ghana, Accra, Ghana)
Alex Kojo Anderson (Department of Foods and Nutrition, College of Family and Consumer Sciences, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA)

Nutrition & Food Science

ISSN: 0034-6659

Article publication date: 4 September 2019

Issue publication date: 22 April 2020

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study was to elucidate the association between helminth infections, dietary parameters and cognitive performance, as well as the predictors of undernutrition among school-age children (SAC) living in helminth-endemic fishing and farming communities in Ghana.

Design/methodology/approach

This was a cross sectional study involving 164 (9 to 12 years old) SAC from fishing (n = 84) and farming (n = 80) communities of the Kwahu Afram Plains South District of the Eastern Region of Ghana, using structured questionnaires and anthropometric and biochemical assessments.

Findings

Overall, 51.2% of the children were males, with no significant gender difference between the communities (p = 0.88). Average age of the children was 10.5 ± 1.25 years, with no significant difference between the farming and fishing communities (p = 0.90). About 53.1% of all children were anemic, with no significant differences between farming versus fishing communities (p = 0.87). Helminth-infected children were significantly anemic (p = 0.03). Mean serum zinc level of all children was 13.1 ± 4.57 µmol/L, with zinc deficiency being significantly higher in children in the farming community (p < 0.0001). About 7.5% of all the children were underweight, whilst 13.8% were stunted with a higher proportion of stunting occurring among older children (p = 0.001) and girls (p = 0.117). There was no significant difference in the Raven’s Colored Progressive Matrices cognitive test scores between the two communities (p = 0.79). Predictors of anemia were helminthiasis and pica behavior.

Originality/value

These findings are relevant and have the prospect of guiding the development of intervention programs in addressing the persistent problem of nutritional and cognitive deficits among SAC.

Keywords

Citation

Tandoh, M.A., Mills-Robertson, F.C., Wilson, M.D. and Anderson, A.K. (2020), "Nutritional and cognitive deficits of school-age children: A study in helminth-endemic fishing and farming communities in Ghana", Nutrition & Food Science, Vol. 50 No. 3, pp. 443-462. https://doi.org/10.1108/NFS-01-2019-0035

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited