Want to protect your children’s brains from stress and enhance cognitive function? As new research out of Europe1 has discovered, it may be as simple as eating well.
A team of researchers from three European universities discovered that a healthy diet can prevent cognitive impairment among mice growing up in stressful conditions. Essentially, eating right may be the key to preventing the impaired cognitive development and health issues resulting from severe stress in early life.
Stress during early development can change the way the brain works. In the above-mentioned study, the researchers provided mother mice with limited materials to use to build their nests. This forced the mice to leave the nest more often to find building materials, meaning they spent less time with their young. This led to a significantly higher stress hormone response than was found among mice whose mothers had all the building materials required to build a comfortable nest.
Half of the stressed mother mice received a dietary supplement containing B vitamins (B6, B9, and B12) and other nutrients the body is unable to produce on its own. The offspring of these mice had better cognitive function and memory than the mice whose mothers did not receive the supplement. The mice whose mothers received the supplement were more similar to the mice raised under “normal” circumstances. They had higher methionine levels, lower stress hormone response, and performed better at memory tasks.
The European researchers believe that this could ultimately benefit humans. Further research is needed to determine whether it’s the mother’s milk that’s affected by the stress or the brain of body of the mice who are living under stressful conditions. Once it’s understood what the link between early-life stress and reduced cognitive development are, it will be possible take steps to prevent the problem.
While you may not have all the information you need to understand how stress can affect your child’s health and cognitive development, it’s enough to say that it does. Knowing this, you can take steps to reduce the stressors in your life during the early stages of your child’s life. The health and function of their brain depend on it.
1. Universiteit van Amsterdam (UVA). “Nutrition protects against the impact of stress on the brain in early life.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 November 2016.