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Eat Right & Keep the Brain Bright

 

Marcelino Reysio-Cruz III, MD
Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician
Diplomate, Philippine Pediatric Society
Fellow, Philippine Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
 

Wednesday, August 19th, 2020

With a pandemic disrupting our lives in many ways, the concern we feel over the future has never been so distressing. Every parent or guardian out there wants to give his child every possible, added advantage to excel in life. Chances are, many of us, have bought a supplement promising to help a child grow intelligent.

But in reality, there is no single nutrient or specific group of nutrients that can keep the brain alert, active, or bright. All nutrients needed by the body work together to keep the brain bright.

The brain grows and develops fastest during childhood. Hence, proper nutrition for a growing child is critical.

Through the years though, DHA, a special fat richly found in the cells of the brain has gained so much credit for making a child grow intelligent. When it is not really the only nutrient the brain needs to function at its best. Although brain tissue is 70% fat, many other nutrients are important for its optimal function.

Water, for example is a vital nutrient for the brain. It allows the brain to be nourished with all the nutrients it needs to send signals necessary for learning, analytical thinking and creativeness.

Glucose, the simplest form of sugar or carbohydrate is what fuels the brain. Glucose is the energy source that the brain cells burn to do their work as the master control of the body.

Protein is used by the brain not only to keep its form and structure but also for some other important functions. A specific example is a protein building block called tryptophan that must be provided daily in the diet. The brain uses tryptophan to make chemical messengers responsible for good sleep and a pleasant disposition.

Even minute amounts of mineral intake are critical for brain function. Iron helps bring much needed oxygen to the brain cells. Iodine makes possible the synthesis of hormones that enable the brain cells to use glucose for energy. Without enough iron and iodine, the brain cannot function well. A child may get tired easily, become irritable and lose interest in exploring his world and learning new things.

Electrolytes like sodium and potassium regulate electrical charges responsible for nerve function. Too much or too little of these electrolytes can wreak havoc on brain function causing problems like mental confusion and even seizures.

Whether in minute or larger quantities, many nutrients keep the brain going at its best. It has never been about a single nutrient or a specific group of nutrients only. All nutrients work together to keep the brain alert and active.

Hence, children must eat right every day to nourish their rapidly growing brain with all the nutrients it needs to function at its best.

And as a parents or guardians, ensuring our children eat right every day is the right thing to keep their brain bright and help them excel in life.

 


 References:

1. Georgieff MK. Nutrition and the developing brain: nutrient priorities and measurement. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 01 February 2007;85(2):p614S–620S.

2. Cusick SE, Georgieff MK. The Role of Nutrition in Brain Development: The Golden Opportunity of the "First 1000 Days". J Pediatr. 2016;175:16-21.

3. Georgieff MK, Rao R. The role of nutrition in cognitive development. In: Nelson CA, Luciana M eds. Handbook in developmental cognitive neuroscience. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001:491–504.

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