Nutrition is important in your child’s intelligence

Nutrition is important in your child’s intelligence

Nutrition plays a major role in your child’s ability to concentrate, learn and achieve. Fast growing bodies need all the nutrition they can get. Even if your child already enjoys a good diet, they may still stand to benefit from improving their nutrient intake as many children are often lacking in some (or many) nutrients. These nutrients often include acetyl l-carnitine, fish oil, bacopa, folic acid and zinc. Each plays a crucial role in benefiting your child’s brain function.

Nutrition plays a major role in your child’s ability to concentrate, learn and achieve. Fast growing bodies need all the nutrients they can get. Even if your child already enjoys a good diet, they may still stand to benefit from improving their nutrient intake as children are often lacking in some (or many) these nutrients. Below are some nutrients that may be of benefit to your child.

Acetyl L-carnitine

A number of studies have shown a positive effect of acetyl l-carnitine (also known as acetyl levocarnitine or ALC) on cerebral blood flow and metabolism in the brain. In randomised, placebo controlled studies, ALC has been shown to enhance cerebral blood flow [1], as well as improve memory and response time. [2] Cognition is often affected in conditions of metabolic imbalance; ALC has also been found to improve this condition. [3-5]

Fish Oil

Fish oil contains the omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). DHA is essential to brain development, whereas EPA appears to benefit behavior and mood. DHA and EPA up-regulate gene expression that is associated with neurogenesis, neurotransmission and connectivity. Endothelial nitric oxide (eNO) production is increased, enhancing brain acetylcholine levels, and suppressing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Both of these fatty acids generate neuroprotective metabolites. [9]

The findings from one study revealed that children at 4 years of age, who were born to mothers who had taken fish oil during pregnancy and lactation had better cognitive abilities. [8] In double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled studies, DHA and EPA combinations have been shown to benefit attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD), [6] as well as mediating significant improvements in reading, spelling and behavior in children 5-12 years of age after 3 months of supplementation. [7] In light of this evidence, fatty acid supplementation may offer a safe and efficacious treatment option for children with educational and behavioral problems.

Folic Acid

Folic acid is known to benefit neural health and development. It is relatively common knowledge that the risk of having a foetus affected with neural tube defects is reduced by maternal folic acid supplementation. [10] Because of the risk of having an unplanned pregnancy is quite high, obstetricians/gynecologists and urologists now advise young women to improve their lifestyle [12] with the inclusion of folic acid supplementation; advice which is supported by the World Health Organization.

These benefits are also seen in children and adults. Low blood folate and associated raised homocysteine concentrations are linked to poor cognitive function. Not surprisingly, folic acid supplementation has been found to improve cognitive function. These effects may be related to folic acid’s ability enhance plasma DHA and EPA. DHA and EPA have been found to be beneficial in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, [11] collectively suggesting that the combination of DHA, EPA and folic acid may improve cognitive function.

Zinc

The effects of impaired nutritional status during one’s childhood may have long-standing consequences for children’s health and performance well into their adult years. Malnourished children have been shown to have decreased physical abilities and endurance, and poorer cognitive function and school performance.

Zinc deficiency is common, and lower levels are associated with poorer cognitive performance. Behavioral problems, including attention deficits, have also been associated with food insufficiency and malnutrition. [13] Low levels of zinc are also evident in children with behavioural disorders, including those with symptoms associated with ADHD. [14]

Bacopa

It has been suggested that bacopa may improve higher order cognitive processes such as learning and memory. [15] In a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, independent-group study, 300mg bacopa daily was shown to improve the speed of visual information processing, learning rate, memory consolidation and anxiety relative to placebo following 12 weeks of supplementation.

Bacopa’s neuroprotective properties have also been revealed. Bacopa and folic acid in combination have been used to improve cognitive functions (including memory), anxiety and depression. [16]

Reference

  1. Postiglione A, Soricelli A, Cicerano U, Mansi L, De Chiara S, Gallotta G, Schettini G, Salvatore M: Effect of acute administration of L-acetyl carnitine on cerebral blood flow in patients with chronic cerebral infarct. Pharmacol Res 1991, 23(3):241-246.
  2. Arrigo A, Casale R, Buonocore M, Ciano C: Effects of acetyl-L-carnitine on reaction times in patients with cerebrovascular insufficiency. Int J Clin Pharmacol Res 1990, 10(1-2):133-137.
  3. Corbucci GG, Melis A, Piga M, Marchionni A, Calvani M: Influence of acetyl-carnitine on some mitochondrial enzymic activities in the human cerebral tissue in conditions of acute hypoxia. Int J Tissue React 1992, 14(4):183-194.
  4. Corbucci GG, Menichetti A, Cogliatti A, Nicoli P, Arduini A, Damonti W, Marchionni A, Calvani M: Metabolic aspects of acute cerebral hypoxia during extracorporeal circulation and their modification induced by acetyl-carnitine treatment. Int J Clin Pharmacol Res 1992, 12(2):89-98.
  5. Corbucci GG, Menichetti A, Cogliatti A, Nicoli P, Ruvolo C: Metabolic aspects of acute tissue hypoxia during extracorporeal circulation and their modification induced by L-carnitine treatment. Int J Clin Pharmacol Res 1992, 12(3):149-157.
  6. Kidd PM: Omega-3 DHA and EPA for cognition, behavior, and mood: clinical findings and structural-functional synergies with cell membrane phospholipids. Altern Med Rev 2007, 12(3):207-227.
  7. Richardson AJ, Montgomery P: The Oxford-Durham study: a randomized, controlled trial of dietary supplementation with fatty acids in children with developmental coordination disorder. Pediatrics 2005, 115(5):1360-1366.
  8. Helland IB, Smith L, Saarem K, Saugstad OD, Drevon CA: Maternal supplementation with very-long-chain n-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation augments children’s IQ at 4 years of age. Pediatrics 2003, 111(1):e39-44.
  9. Whalley LJ, Fox HC, Wahle KW, Starr JM, Deary IJ: Cognitive aging, childhood intelligence, and the use of food supplements: possible involvement of n-3 fatty acids. Am J Clin Nutr 2004, 80(6):1650-1657.
  10. Kondo A, Kimura K, Isobe Y, Kamihira O, Matsuura O, Gotoh M, Okai I: [Folic acid reduces risks of having fetus affected with neural tube defects: dietary food folate and plasma folate concentration]. Nippon Hinyokika Gakkai Zasshi 2003, 94(5):551-559.
  11. Das UN: Folic acid and polyunsaturated fatty acids improve cognitive function and prevent depression, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease–but how and why?Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 2008, 78(1):11-19.
  12. Kondo A, Kamihira O, Gotoh M, Ozawa H, Lee TY, Lin AT, Kim SR, Lin HH: Folic acid prevents neural tube defects: international comparison of awareness among obstetricians/gynecologists and urologists. J Obstet Gynaecol Res 2007, 33(1):63-67.
  13. Fanjiang G, Kleinman RE: Nutrition and performance in children. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 2007, 10(3):342-347.
  14. Arnold LE, Bozzolo H, Hollway J, Cook A, DiSilvestro RA, Bozzolo DR, Crowl L, Ramadan Y, Williams C: Serum zinc correlates with parent- and teacher- rated inattention in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol 2005, 15(4):628-636.
  15. Stough C, Lloyd J, Clarke J, Downey LA, Hutchison CW, Rodgers T, Nathan PJ: The chronic effects of an extract of Bacopa monniera (Brahmi) on cognitive function in healthy human subjects. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2001, 156(4):481-484.
  16. Jorm AF, Rodgers B, Christensen H: Use of medications to enhance memory in a large community sample of 60-64 year olds. Int Psychogeriatr 2004, 16(2):209-217.

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