Food and Behaviour Research

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The effect of subclinical infantile thiamine deficiency on motor function in preschool children

Harel Y, Zuk L, Guindy M, Nakar O, Lotan D, Fattal-Valevski A (2017) Matern Child Nutr.  2017 Jan 29.  doi: 10.1111/mcn.12397. [Epub ahead of print] 

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We investigated the long-term implications of infantile thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency on motor function in preschoolers who had been fed during the first 2 years of life with a faulty milk substitute. In this retrospective cohort study, 39 children aged 5-6 years who had been exposed to a thiamine-deficient formula during infancy were compared with 30 age-matched healthy children with unremarkable infant nutritional history.

The motor function of the participants was evaluated with The Movement Assessment Battery for Children (M-ABC) and the Zuk Assessment. Both evaluation tools revealed statistically significant differences between the exposed and unexposed groups for gross and fine motor development (p < .001, ball skills p = .01) and grapho-motor development (p = .004). The differences were especially noteworthy on M-ABC testing for balance control functioning (p < .001, OR 5.4; 95% CI 3.4-7.4) and fine motor skills (p < .001, OR 3.2; 95% CI 1.8-4.6).

In the exposed group, both assessments concurred on the high rate of children exhibiting motor function difficulties in comparison to unexposed group (M-ABC: 56% vs. 10%, Zuk Assessment: 59% vs. 3%, p < .001). Thiamine deficiency in infancy has long-term implications on gross and fine motor function and balance skills in childhood, thiamine having a crucial role in normal motor development.

The study emphasizes the importance of proper infant feeding and regulatory control of breast milk substitutes.