Food and Behaviour Research

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Nurturing the brain nutritionally and emotionally from before conception to late adolescence

House SH. (2007) Nutr Health.  19(1-2): 143-61. 

Web URL: View this and related abstracts via PubMed here

Abstract:

Sound nurture requires skills concerning nutrition and emotions, skills that are particularly important in key stages relating to brain development. We are recognizing more clearly the way that serious changes from our hunter-gatherer waterside lifestyle are affecting both our diet and our emotional relationships: first the changes a few hundred generations ago in the agricultural revolution: and more recently in the industrial revolution. These effects have been aggravated in the last century by excessively profit-driven intensive farming, and recently by intensive food-marketing--particularly to children.

People are gradually becoming aware how very susceptible is the most vulnerable stage of the lifecycle, the reproductive phase. From long before fertilization and conception, parental nutrition affects a person's development and health for life. Controlled trials show marked effects of nurture on the brain's subsequent acuity. Brain structure throughout development has become visible through modern scans, and also brain activity and mental response. The neural tube, forming at around 3 weeks, if undernourished may be inadequately sealed and demarcated, leading to incomplete interconnection between brain regions. Results vary, but can emanate as: autism or attention-deficit/hyperactivity-disorder (AD/HD); difficulty with relationships and social sense; poor self-control, with risk of violence.

Evidence indicates that over 80% of current reproductive hazards, including infertility and malformations, might be prevented purely by sound all-round nurture. Between the embryonic stage and adulthood the brain makes several developmental spurts. Particularly during these spurts, sound nutrition and activity help the brain reach its full genetic potential for capacity, acuity, and connections between regions. From the beginning, hormones and nutrients, or their deficits, are setting gene-switches for life. Good bonding and feeding sets gene-switches positively; shock, stress or poor nutrition, negatively. Forceps delivery combined with serious early separation, correlates with over 4 times the risk of criminal violence by the age of 18. So disruptions of nurture set at risk not only body and brain but a person's very spirituality. Understanding of the biochemistry and epigenetics highlights our urgent need to learn from our evolutionary ways, not only of childbearing, but of a physically active life nourished by foods from the water and the wild.