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January 10, 1966

Mental Retardation Linked to Malnutrition

JAMA. 1966;195(2):42. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03100020020006

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Recent studies in Latin America and African countries indicate that widespread protein-calorie malnutrition may be causing mental retardation in thousands of children in those areas, a pediatrician from Uganda has reported.

"If the present indications are proven, it may be that almost entire populations may be at risk of being unable to achieve their mental, social and behavioral potential," reported Derrick B. Jelliffe, MD, Makere Medical School, Kampala.

Speaking to the Western Hemisphere Nutrition Congress, sponsored in Chicago by the American Medical Association, Jelliffe described protein-calorie malnutrition as the "world's biggest principal nutrition problem."

Approximately 3.3 billion persons or 10% to 15% of the world population, are undernourished. Protein-calorie malnutrition—known as Kwashiorkor—occurs in as many as two out of five children in some Latin American areas.

To clarify the effect of this disease on the brain and on subsequent social and behavioral development, several studies have been conducted by Dr.

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