Hi Everyone, how the brain develops is fascinating stuff and so important to us. Cooking and eating right can totally set you up for good things. Read up and see, then tell a friend or three
A person’s lifetime is largely determined during a unique window of opportunity. This is the first 1,000 days, counted from conception until the second birthday. Nutritional deficiencies during this window will, amongst others, show up as an underdeveloped brain and have a profound effect on a child and its future. Here’s why:
• The brain begins to develop in the fifth week of pregnancy. It is formed from a neural tube which needs to close by the sixth week to prevent life-limiting neural defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly. This is the perfect example of the value of micronutrients: the neural tube cannot close without a micronutrient called folate.
• Between weeks 24 and 42 of the pregnancy, the developing brain is particularly vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies because of the rapid growth of several neurologic processes such as the production of cells (and they need to be of the right size and complexity) and the development of chemical processes for efficient communication between cells. These, and all the other developments during this time, need their own particular micronutrients.
• The foetal brain goes through the most significant and rapid development during the last trimester of pregnancy, taking a massive leap of 260% from one stage of development to the next. Micronutrients not present during this stage will severely impair its ability to develop.
• After birth, the brain grows a further 175% till the age of one, doubling in size during this period. It continues to add neurons over the first few years. By age three it reaches 80% of its adult volume. As at every other stage, good nutrition is essential to brain growth.
The effects of poor nutrition after the first 1,000 days are largely irreversible.
Good nutrition is not just food. A child can be well fed but undernourished. Good nutrition is more than food to survive – it is a variety of the right vitamins and minerals (micronutrients), given when the body needs them, to enable our children to thrive. In a world where too few people have the luxury, usually due to low dietary diversity as a result of affordability, of good nutrition from food, delivering micronutrients through fortification of staple foods or supplementation becomes necessary in the short term. We cannot fail our children -they are the future.