Updated 19 October 2015

Are we starving our kids' brains?

What we eat has an impact on our children's mental future. DietDoc takes a look.


This week Health24's DietDoc takes a long hard look at mothers' nutrition and how the lack of adequate energy and nutrient intake due to a poor diet are among the most potent influences that can determine a child’s mental future.

If a mother is starved because of famine, poverty or eating disorders (e.g. anorexia nervosa, orthorexia, and bulimia) then the first thing that suffers is the development of the brain of the unborn child she is carrying.

One of the most important things we can do to ensure that our population develops to its full potential is to ensure that all children are born to well-fed mothers who receive adequate amounts of energy and all the vital nutrients such as protein, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and omega fatty acids before conception and during pregnancy.

Another concern is the upsurge in teenage pregnancies in this country, which bodes ill for the future development of our children.

So many of these young women are seriously undernourished because of economic constraints, poor education, reliance on fast foods with a very low nutrient density or disordered eating patterns.

Disturbances that occur in the balance between a mother’s stress levels, her diet, external glucocorticoids plus corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), infections and inflammations, as well as exposure to drugs, can alter the size and the shape of structures within the grey matter and the white matter of the brain.

If such changes occur in the foetal brain, the baby may be born with developmental disorders including autism, ADHD, schizophrenia, affective disorders and even dementia at a later stage.

If you know of a pregnant mom who may be jeopardising her unborn's chance to be born healthy and happy due to her lifestyle (whether by choice or circumstance), do your bit and forward this mail to her.

Here's to eating well!

Read more:

Can the right foods make your kid smarter?

Mom's bad eating may lead to obese kids

Diet tips for pregnant moms - Part 11


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