Nutrition in the prognosis of Cerebral Palsy


Every being’s brain is its powerhouse. It controls and regulates every process that occurs in the body.

What is cerebral palsy (CP)?

Cerebral – refers to the affected cerebrum/part of the brain; palsy – refers to a brain injury that causes movement disorders.

Among the signs and symptoms to look for are:

  • Developmental delays: failure to smile by 6 weeks, failure to walk by 2 years.
  • Behavioural issues, such as excessive crying and anxiety.
  • Control and coordination: waddling while walking, walking with a wide gait.
  • Muscle tone: jerky spastic movement, extremely stiff/loose muscles, inability to grasp or hold objects.
  • Gastrointestinal: drooling, inability to swallow/suckle properly, aspiration, vomiting and unusual fatigue.

Some statistics…

Many parents wonder if their child was born with cerebral palsy, despite the fact that the disorder can be caused by a variety of factors. It could be caused by a congenital disorder, a birth injury (meaning it develops before or during childbirth), or other acquired causes. Infections during pregnancy, twins/multiple births, children weighing less than 2.5kg at birth, infertility treatments, jaundice, uterine rupture, placental problem, and umbilical cord problem are examples of congenital causes. Cerebral palsy affects approximately 500,000 people under the age of 18 years old, according to current estimates.

Case frequencies of cerebral palsy

70-80% of these cases are spastic (tense, contracted muscle), 10% are athetoid (constant uncontrolled motion of limbs, head, and eyes), 5% are ataxic (poor sense of balance, causing falls and stumbles), and 10% are a mixed variation (symptoms of more than one type)

  • Approximately 60% of children with cerebral palsy will be diagnosed with another form of intellectual disability by the age of 8 years.
  • 40% of children will be diagnosed with intellectual delay.
  • 35% will be diagnosed with epilepsy.
  • 15% will be diagnosed with vision impairment.
  • 9% will be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Nutrition significance

Nutrition plays an important role in optimising prognosis from a child’s conception (as a preventive measure to developing CP) to the totality of care provided to those diagnosed with cerebral palsy (also in preventing co-occurring conditions that may arise with CP).

Because of the difficulties that people with cerebral palsy face, which are;

  • Muscle tone/movement/motor skills: foods high in calcium and vitamin D, as well as phosphorus, should be included in the diet. 
  • Digestive issues/lack of appetite: fruits and vegetables high in vitamins and minerals, water.
  • Infections and hospitalisations: fruits and vegetables, water.
  • Increased nutritional requirements: high protein and energy-dense foods.

Take note…

It is important to note that the dietary needs of each person with cerebral palsy vary, as do the digestive/swallowing challenges that may cause changes in food texture/consistency and the importance of nutrient-dense foods. As a result, a dietitian is required to assess and make appropriate recommendations in optimising such people’s nutrition and overall health status. Consult me on meal planning services for cerebral palsy today. You can also find help at the cerebral palsy centre in Nigeria.

Article by Oluwatobi Orire


Cover photo – Childbirth Injuries

Cerebral palsy in Nigerian children: profile and impact on educational opportunities

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