In this article, we will explore the role of dietary folate, iron, protein, and fat in human brain development. These nutrients play a critical role in the brain development of young children. While we know that the proper intake of these nutrients is essential for brain health, we still don’t fully understand how they affect human development. Here are some basic rules to remember while making dietary choices for young children. Let’s review each in turn.
In addition to influencing neural and cognitive development, prenatal folate also modulates gene expression in offspring. Compared to controls, prenatal folate intake increased gene expression by 62 to 18 fold. This effect was found in key neural and developmental genes. Further studies are needed to understand the role of folate during brain development. Currently, folate-deficient mice showed reduced activity in an elevated plus maze, and higher anxiety.
In one study, low folate levels in the mother during pregnancy were associated with a smaller brain volume and less cerebral white matter in the offspring. Low folate levels during pregnancy were also associated with poorer performance on tests of language and visuospatial development. Although the association between folate intake and child performance was not significant, the findings are encouraging. The results of this study show that folate is important for normal brain development and the prevention of neurologic disorders.
A healthy diet is the first step in preventing folate deficiency. Fortified foods have significantly reduced folate deficiencies and neural tube defects since 1998. Unfortunately, only 34% of pregnant women take a folate supplement. Women who are overweight, obese, or diabetic are particularly at risk for folate deficiency. Many of these women may not be aware of the importance of folate supplementation.
While iron is vital for brain development during the early years, it is also important to consider how much is enough. According to research published in Tonic, iron intake predicts later brain health. The following chart describes the relationship between iron and brain development in children. The levels of these nutrients correlate with the number of healthy brain cells later in life. The higher the amount of iron, the more healthy the brain cells will be. But what is the relationship between iron and brain development?
During fetal development, the CNS contains more NTBI than the periphery. Neurons express high levels of TfRs, and internalize iron through DMT-1. Astrocytes, which express DMT-1, also internalize Fe2+ ions. In addition, microglia express the TfRs DMT-1 and lactoferrin receptors. While the roles of iron and brain development in humans are not fully understood, researchers have found a link between iron and brain development and health in children.
The role of protein in brain development is not only important for healthy adult brain development, but also for pre-teen brain development. Children born with adequate brain development are likely to perform better in school and other tasks. The ability to focus and learn is crucial for pre-teens, so protein is essential for healthy brain development. Protein is also necessary for regulating moods, learning, and focusing. It can improve all aspects of brain development, including cognitive abilities.
In the brain, protein synthesis is regulated by a complex system of proteins known as ribosomes. Ribosomes have specific functions, which control the production of specific proteins in different tissues and at different developmental stages. During cerebral cortex development, these proteins play an important role in cell-to-cell synaptic contact.
Although the role of fat in brain development has not been studied extensively, some research has uncovered its beneficial role. Dietary lipids affect neurodevelopment, with changes in plasma lipids leading to parallel changes in the hippocampal lipidome. In one study, a diet rich in fat increased the number of neurons in the hippocampus, enhancing neural plasticity. However, no conclusive evidence supports the role of dietary fat in brain development.
Although fat intake in adolescents did not decrease between 1987 and 1995, the actual grams of fat consumed increased. Moreover, there was no significant difference between age groups in the energy from fat, except in some gender and age-gender groups. This trend could be explained by the fact that the total energy intake among adolescents had increased. The higher the total energy intake, the higher the risk of dementia. Thus, it would be advisable to consume a diet rich in fat for healthy brain development.
Studies of iron deficiency in children suggest that it affects cognition. This deficiency occurs during early childhood and toddlerhood when the brain is developing. However, the effects of iron deficiency are not uniform across brain regions and processes. They depend on the level of iron in the blood and the timing of the deficiency. The study’s findings suggest that a relationship between iron deficiency and child brain development may be indirect.
The role of iron in brain development was first explored in rodent models during the early stages of development. Other research used non-human primate models. Studies found that reduced iron concentrations in brain tissues affect cytochromes and negatively affect ATP generation and electron transport. Losses of cytochrome c oxidase, a marker of energy status in neurons, were regionally distributed in the brain. These studies also showed that these changes persist during iron repletion.
Vitamin D Deficiency
A new study reveals that vitamin D deficiency significantly affects the brain. Its results were published in the Neurology journal. People with low vitamin D levels showed poorer performance on mental tests and had a nearly doubled risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers also discovered that moderate vitamin D deficiency was associated with an increased risk of 69 percent for dementia. Further, this study suggests that vitamin D levels may affect brain development in women and men. Foods that are rich in magnesium help in getting sleep by reducing stress and also increase the level of Vitamin D.
The amount of vitamin D in the blood varies according to the latitude of the person’s residence. In areas with colder climates, people with darker skin are at a higher risk for suboptimal vitamin D levels. However, a doctor can determine if vitamin D supplementation is required. In healthy people, it is recommended that patients maximize their production of vitamin D through their skin during the summer months and to eat more vitamin D-rich foods during the winter months.
Vitamin B12 deficiency
Vitamin B12 deficiency is a widespread problem that can affect children, especially those with a vegetarian diet. It’s particularly dangerous for children under five years of age, and the lack of this vital nutrient is the most common cause of childhood neurological disorders. Though B12 is readily available in foods from animals, it’s important to make sure that children are getting sufficient amounts in their diet. Some of the best sources of Vitamin B12 naturally include grass-fed beef, eggs, and certain types of seafood. Vegetarians, however, may need a supplement.
Children with vitamin B12 deficiency may exhibit psychiatric symptoms including depression and irritability. While these are symptoms of a deficiency of any kind, it’s important to note that these are not all related to depression. A deficiency in this nutrient can lead to a variety of other problems, including heart failure and respiratory problems. If you suspect that you or a family member may be deficient in Vitamin B12, make an appointment with a healthcare practitioner.
Finally, while concluding it can be simply stated that there are various nutrients that aid in brain development, The deficiency of some can be severe while some nutrients actually help in developing the brain.