Raisins offer health benefits that can help boost health and contribute to adequate nutrition. In a new study, researchers discovered that the dried fruits do not only aid physical health, it can also predict how well toddlers will do in school by age 8.

Preterm birth has been associated with a multitude of effects. Researchers from the University of Warwick wanted to find out if the adverse effects of prematurity on academic performance and attention span at eight years of age are influenced by children's suppressive control characteristics.

The study used data from a German longitudinal study, which comprised of 558 children born between the 25th to the 41st week of gestation. The results of the investigations for preterm babies or those born at 25-38 weeks were compared with that of full term newborns, who were delivered between 39-41 weeks.

At 20 months, the toddlers were given a raisin placed in a reachable opaque container. Training sessions were run first, after which the participants were instructed to wait until they are allowed to grab and consume the raisin. The total waiting time allotted was 60 seconds.

During the course of the experiment, the authors discovered that preterm children had a greater tendency of getting the raisin before they were instructed to do so.

Follow up studies were performed when the study subjects turned eight. Experts employed three varied behavioral ratings of attention from mothers, psychologists and the entire research group.

Academic performance in the subjects of reading, mathematics and spelling or writing were also assessed using standardized examinations.

The findings of the academic evaluation study showed that those who had a hard time suppressing their behaviors as toddlers (preterm babies) exuded lower ratings in school performance, compared to their peers who were born full term.

In the end, the authors concluded that lower gestational age is associated with lower inhibitory control, and that these children are more prone to have limited attention span and poor academic performance at the age of eight.

Lead author of the study and honorary research fellow at the university Julia Jaekel said that the findings play a key role in understanding underachievement in preterm children. For senior author Dieter Wolke, the study was able to devise a quick assessment tool that can help predict attention and learning both in preterm and full term children.

"The results also point to potential innovative avenues to early intervention after preterm birth," he added.

The study was published in The Journal of Pediatrics on Thursday, Nov. 19.

Photo: Kurt Nordstrom | Flickr

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