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BackgroundNutrition in early childhood is important for healthy growth and development. Achieving school readiness is considered one of the most important developmental milestones for young children.
ObjectivesThe purpose of this study is to determine if nutritional risk in early childhood is associated with school readiness in kindergarten.
MethodsA prospective cohort study was conducted through The Applied Research Group for Kids (TARGet Kids!) primary care research network in Toronto, Canada, 2015-2020. Nutritional risk was measured (18 mo to 5 y) using validated parent-completed questionnaires called Nutrition Screening for Toddlers and Preschoolers (NutriSTEP). High nutritional risk was categorized as scores ≥21. School readiness was measured using the validated teacher-completed Early Developmental Instrument (EDI), which measures 5 developmental domains in kindergarten (2 y of schooling, ages 4-6 y, before they enter grade 1). Vulnerability indicates scores lower than a population-based cutoff at the 10th percentile on at least 1 domain. Multiple logistic and linear regression models were conducted adjusting for relevant confounders.
ResultsThe study included 896 children: 53% were male, 9% had high nutritional risk, and 17% were vulnerable on the EDI. A 1-SD increase in NutriSTEP total score was associated with 1.54 times increased odds of being vulnerable on the EDI among children in year 2 of kindergarten (P = 0.001). High nutritional risk cutoff was associated with 4.28 times increased odds of being vulnerable on the EDI among children in year 2 of kindergarten (P < 0.001). NutriSTEP total score and high nutritional risk were associated with lower scores on all 5 EDI domains, with the strongest association observed for the domains of language and cognitive development and communication skills and general knowledge.
ConclusionsHigher nutritional risk in early childhood is associated with lower school readiness in year 2 of kindergarten. Nutritional interventions early in life may offer opportunities to enhance school readiness. This trial was registered www.clinicaltrials.gov as NCT01869530.
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