What makes a gifted child? It’s not genetics

(FROM left) Host Issa Litton, Dr. Ryan Carvalho, and Dr. Sean Deoni.

Mea Guinhawa-Gabunada, group manager for Promil and Georgina Wilson. | PHOTOGRAPHS BY STEPHANIE MAYO

Ang talino naman ng bata! Manang-mana sa nanay!

Do kids really inherit intelligence?

“Early on, the measures of hereditability of IQ, particularly from mum, had it around 10 percent. And that number has actually come down quite a bit,” Dr. Sean Deoni, associate professor of pediatrics and diagnostic imaging at Brown University, told Daily Tribune.

“In some of the more recent work, I think two years ago, there’s a major paper that came out that showed it to be less than 10 percent,” he added.

Deoni then revealed that the study found that it is the father’s income that plays a bigger role in the development of a child’s intelligence rather than genetics.

“[The study found that] even if you were in the low-performance genetic group, but you’re born to a dad with a high income, you’re doing better than the kids with high genetic predictability but lower income,” he said.

So, does that mean a baby born to wealthy parents will naturally raise a gifted child?

“The unfortunate bit is that the study is looking specifically at economic opportunity. But that can be mimicked,” Deoni explained. “The good thing is that it doesn’t take just wealthy parents to talk to children. Just parents that care about nutrition. All that can be done for anyone.”

Cognitive setback

At the Gifted Together event for Filipino mothers held at the Shangri-La, The Fort Manila in Taguig City on 26 January, Dr. Sean Deoni was joined by Dr. Ryan Carvalho, chief medical officer and global head of the Nutrition Product Development Center, to address the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic to a child’s brain development.

The experts were flown into the country by Wyeth Nutrition, the makers of PROMIL, the organic milk for kids, which follows strict manufacturing standards and contains unique ingredients that specifically target a child’s development.

“At Wyeth Nutrition, we strive to bring in experts because we want to listen to the needs of Filipino parents, so that we can continuously innovate our products,” Mea Guinhawa-Gabunada, group brand manager for PROMIL, Wyeth Philippines Inc., said.

Indeed, the experts shared crucial information. According to Deoni, 90 percent of a child’s brain development happens during the first five years of their lives. But what if the child’s formative years happened during the time of strict Covid restrictions?

A study, which Deoni co-authored, found that kids born during the Covid-19 pandemic have “significantly reduced” verbal, motor, and overall cognitive performance compared to kids born pre-pandemic.

But, hope is not lost as the doctors emphasized the easy formula to boost a child’s brain function: Nutrition and stimulation.


“With how our world has changed due to the pandemic, it’s important to pay closer attention to our kid’s diet,” Dr. Carvalho explained.

He cited docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), milk oligosaccharides (MOS+), which include sialic acid, as well as zinc, iodine, choline, lutein, and vitamins A, B, and D to help significantly increase the development of memory, learning, and cognitive skills. PROMIL has all those ingredients.

But nutrition is not enough. Kids also need stimulation, i.e., playing, reading, and plenty of parent-child interaction.

“If you do not have stimulation, you do not myelinate,” Deoni said, referring to a process by which myelin, an insulating layer made up of protein and fatty substances, forms around nerves, including those in the brain and spinal cord.

“An increase of 36 percent in myelin can lead to faster language development, together with proper nutrition and stimulation,” he added.

Love your child

All that scientific information about boosting your child’s brain development, however, is useless without love.

Celebrity Georgina Wilson, who was present at the event, admitted to having been enlightened by this simple solution. She is a mother to AlphaKid, Archie, who drinks PROMIL Gold Four.

Dr. Deoni expounded how love can naturally make a parent provide the winning formula for raising a child with a gifted brain: nutrition and stimulation.

“Although it’s quite cliché, love your child. Start with that. If you love your child, you will play with them, spend time with them, support them, encourage them, hug them, love them, feed them with the right nutrition, interact with them, tickle them — all those good things are important for brain maturation and make a child healthy in general,” Deoni said.

“Love your child,” he repeated to the moms at the event.

He said that if you do, you are 90 percent on the way to raising a truly gifted child.

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