While it is widely known and accepted that
proper nutrition is vital to physical health throughout the lifecycle 1, 2, the relationship between nutrition and
neurocognition and mental health has been counterintuitively less acknowledged 3. However, increasing evidence indicates that both nutritional deficiencies and excesses have deleterious
effects on brain development and functionality, potentially resulting in
impaired neurocognition or psychiatric disorders 3 4. Other emerging evidence suggests that conversely, adequate nutrition
promotes optimal brain development, neurocognition, and mental health by preventing,
mitigating, and/or reversing negative effects 5.
One of the earliest studies identifying
links between nutrition and neurocognition and mental health was in 1915 by psychiatrist,
H. Douglas SingerFI1 , who found that adults with Pellegra, a disease from niacin (Vitamin B-3)
deficiency causing dermatitis and diarrhea, FI2 also experienced dementia and negative changes in
mental health, including anxiety and depression 6. A landmark study based on data
from the Dutch Winter Famine of 1944-1945, examined a cohort of offspring born
to mothers exposed to starvation (400-800 calories per day) during World War II,
and found that these offspring had a
two-fold increased risk of developing schizophreniaFI3 compared to controls 7. Utilizing
the same birth cohort, later research found that these offspring also experienced
impaired cognitive function in mid to late adulthood 8. Although the degree of vitamin deficiency
and malnutrition were extreme in these studies, they elicited important clues
about the crucial role of nutrition in neurodevelopment and long-term
neurocognition and mental health prompting subsequent research. The exact
physiological mechanisms of these nutritional effects are still not yet fully
elucidated, but recent evidence suggests that they
are mediated through multiple interrelated biological processes and pathways
processes, the immune system, oxidative stress, the gut microbiome,
neuroplasticity, and epigenetics FI4 9,
Given the increasing
evidence supporting the intricate relationship between nutrition and neurocognition
and mental health, it is essential to expand our understanding and awareness of
these important links. Moreover, neurocognitive
and neuropsychiatric disorders, often intergenerational and perpetual, are an
enormous emotional and economic burden to individuals, families, and
society. According to the World Health
Organization (WHO), neuropsychiatric disorders are the leading cause of global
disability and projected to grow exponentially, potentially becoming a
worldwide epidemic 16 17.
While pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy remain predominate treatment
modalities for neuropsychiatric disorders, they are not always effective and
can be cost-prohibitive. Pharmacotherapy may also lead to undesirable side
effects, which, in addition to expense, may interfere with compliance and therefore,
proper treatment. Cognitive impairment
and dementia are also increasing worldwide and predicted to increase
significantly more in developing regions 8 18 19, 20. Currently, no medications have been shown to effectively prevent
their progression or conversion to Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, it is urgent
to further investigate and consider nutritional factors as alternative preventative
and therapeutic opportunities, for both current and future generations.
This paper will comprehensively review,
analyze, and summarize the current evidence on various aspects of nutrition
(vitamins and minerals), macronutrientsFI5 (carbohydrates, protein, fat) and overall
diet and their effects on neurocognition and mental health throughout the
lifespan. Detailed explanations of the
involved biological processes and metabolism of nutrients are beyond the scope
of this chapter; however, they will be briefly mentioned when necessary.
Implications of the existing evidence, recommendations for advancing future
research, and public health policy matters will also be discussed.
kind of professional?
people wont’ know what Pellegra is, so clarify.
you will go through all of these later.
has not been defined yet, so this may be worth doing here first.