Brain development and nutrition are inseparable. The brain needs a reliable supply of nutrients such as folic acid, iodine and iron during critical periods.
“Critical period” is a very short time in which a particular part of function of brain development takes place. Several nutrients, including iodine and iron, are regulated within a relatively narrow range.
The developing foetus must meet well defined milestones or critical periods. Protein energy malnutrition is noticeable through stunting or short stature and is the
nutritional indicator most consistently correlated with children’s mental development.
In developing countries, stunting is usually associated with poor development in young children, and delayed neurosensory integration, low IQ and low school achievement in older children.
Even when there is no biologically defined malnutrition, limited food intake may affect psychomotor
development. Transgenerational studies have shown that children of the
mothers who received nutrition supplements in their childhood were taller, had
higher birth weight, and greater head circumference.
As a result, stunting and underweight was less prevalent in this group.
The next generation benefited from improved nutrition.
Iron influences brain development. Iron deficiency can alter brain developments likely to be experienced well into
adulthood. Iron deficiency affects processing speed, motor development and recognition memory. Iron deficiency affects social-emotional behaviour.
Longitudinal studies indicate consistently that children who were anaemic in early childhood, continued to have poor cognitive and motor development and school achievement into middle childhood.
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