NNIW95: Nutrition effects on Brain and Cognition in Children
Although the importance of nutritional adequacy for brain function and cognitive development has received considerable investigation using preclinical models for several decades, the translational applications of this work to humans, particularly children, remain disparate and inconsistent. The equivocal state of the knowledge in the field of pediatric nutritional neuroscience is largely due to limited knowledge on the specific nutrient targets that preferentially support that particular aspects of brain and cognition. Early work in this area focused on identifying behavioral (e.g., nutrition and physical activity) and physiological (e.g., adiposity and aerobic fitness) correlates of attentional control and memory function in preadolescent children. Findings from this work revealed that select markers of diet quality (e.g., dietary lipids, fiber, and carotenoids) exert selective effects on cognitive processes necessary for learning and memory, even following adjustment of aerobic fitness, adiposity, and general intellectual abilities. Identification of nutritional factors that contribute to pediatric cognitive function, and the mechanisms underlying their effects, are necessary steps in establishing the evidence base to integrate emerging knowledge in this field. Currently, my research program is conducting cross-sectional studies as well as clinical trials to determine the impact of specific dietary interventions, on children's abilities for cognitive control and memory. The findings from this work have contemporary relevance considering the persistently elevated prevalence of obesity and poor diet quality among children in the United States and much of the industrialized world.