Nutrition, adult hippocampal neurogenesis and mental health

Br Med Bull. 2012 Sep;103(1):89-114. doi: 10.1093/bmb/lds021. Epub 2012 Jul 24.


Introduction: Over the last 8 years, emerging studies bridging the gap between nutrition and mental health have resolutely established that learning and memory abilities as well as mood can be influenced by diet. However, the mechanisms by which diet modulates mental health are still not well understood. Sources of data In this article, a review of the literature was conducted using PubMed to identify studies that provide functional implications of adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN) and its modulation by diet.

Areas of agreement: One of the brain structures associated with learning and memory as well as mood is the hippocampus. Importantly, the hippocampus is one of the two structures in the adult brain where the formation of newborn neurons, or neurogenesis, persists.

Areas of controversy: The exact roles of these newborn neurons in learning, memory formation and mood regulation remain elusive.

Growing points: Nevertheless, there has been accumulating evidence linking cognition and mood to neurogenesis occurring in the adult hippocampus. Therefore, modulation of AHN by diet emerges as a possible mechanism by which nutrition impacts on mental health.

Areas timely for developing research: This area of investigation is new and needs attention because a better understanding of the neurological mechanisms by which nutrition affect mental health may lead to novel dietary approaches for disease prevention, healthier ageing and discovery of new therapeutic targets for mental illnesses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Caffeine
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Food / adverse effects*
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology
  • Memory / physiology
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Mice
  • Minerals
  • Neurogenesis / drug effects
  • Neurogenesis / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Nutritional Status
  • Polyphenols
  • Rats
  • Vitamins


  • Carbohydrates
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Minerals
  • Polyphenols
  • Vitamins
  • Caffeine