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“Genetics is not the determining factor in mental development”: conclusions of a doctor from Rosario



After more than ten years of working together with a team of 300 specialists from around the world, the largest global study on the development and growth of children under two years old led by Argentine doctor José Villar has appeared on the pages of a prestigious magazine. nature,

The work was done at the University of Oxford, where Villar, a specialist in obstetrics, gynecology and perinatology, has been a professor of perinatal medicine and a research assistant for two decades. their findings will change how pediatricians "measure" the growth and integral development of childrenThis, in turn, will lead to benefits during the pregnancy stage, will reveal the problems of the child in the early stages and will contribute to the implementation of public health policy, in which special attention is paid to the well-being of the mother and the child, which is a great obsession with was a young professional.

The project was the largest prospective population-based study on the growth and development of the fetus and newborn, in which almost 60 thousand mothers and babies took part, and was carried out in two stages. Firstly, from the monitoring of intrauterine development in each of these pregnant women from different parts of the world. Second, periodically evaluating more than 1,300 such children under the age of two years.

To study growth, health, nutrition and neurological development from 14 weeks of gestation to two years of age, the team used the same conceptual framework as the World Health Organization's Multicenter Reference Study. Health (WHO) to develop prescriptive standards that complement these WHO standards for child growth, and the new phenotypic classification of fetal growth restriction and preterm labor syndromes.

The novelty of the results, the data of which coincides with the WHO data on the similarity of growth in healthy and breast-fed children throughout the world, lies in the fact that they show that physical and neurological growth and behavior of children occurs. with a very similar speed in children, regardless of their ethnic origin or place of residence, provided that the living conditions are adequate and with good nutrition. Moreover, confirm that neither the color of the skin nor the place of birth have differences in these matters, but the quality of life“What really differentiates us in terms of health is social and economic conditions, not genetic ones,” Villar told La Capital to his native Rosario from England.

Villar, who for many years was the focal point for maternal and perinatal health at WHO, added: "Our research clearly demonstrates that the genetic code is not a central factor in mental development or growth, but they access to medical control, proper nutrition, breastfeeding, adequate housing, access to education and low environmental risk".

Oxford researchers and their staff compared mothers in similar socioeconomic, medical, and educational situations, but from different ethnic groups, and found that there were no differences in development between the boys in good condition from both the African city and the state for two years. and from other countries. another from London. “We are much more similar to each other than they are different, in any case, between the poor and the“ rich ”in a particular country there are much more differences than between the“ rich ”from different parts of the world, speaking in simple language,” the expert emphasized.

Impact of discovery

The results of this study are international in scope, in addition to complementing WHO's growth standards for children under five years of age. "For the first time in medicine, we have the standard parameters of mental development in boys and girls of two years, which we studied in the first trimester of pregnancy, Complete assessment using the same criteria and the same healthy populations as the standards. This unified strategy of integrated control between mother and baby was first obtained for mother, fetus, newborn, premature babies, infants and children under two years of age, ”explained Villar.

Pediatricians (and especially mothers and fathers) will use an integrated international method, including mental development, “based on WHO criteria, rather than a combination of local curves, sometimes of dubious quality and unclear in“ Relation to what the population is based on which are not standardized and which change if they move from a city or country, ”explained the professional.

In this way, The job provides new evidence-based tools for identifying children with growth problems in the uterus.a general method for quantifying and comparing the prevalence of nutritional deficiencies in the population at birth and the first evidence-based method for monitoring postnatal growth of premature babies.

It is estimated that every year another 13 million newborns worldwide will be identified as undernourished using new standards compared to current practice.


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