This review examines the current evidence for a possible connection between nutritional intake (including micronutrients and whole diet) and neurocognitive development in childhood. Earlier studies which have investigated the association between nutrition and cognitive development have focused on individual micronutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, folic acid, choline, iron, iodine, and zinc, and single aspects of diet. The research evidence from observational studies suggests that micronutrients may play an important role in the cognitive development of children. However, the results of intervention trials utilizing single micronutrients are inconclusive. More generally, there is evidence that malnutrition can impair cognitive development, whilst breastfeeding appears to be beneficial for cognition. Eating breakfast is also beneficial for cognition. In contrast, there is currently inconclusive evidence regarding the association between obesity and cognition. Since individuals consume combinations of foods, more recently researchers have become interested in the cognitive impact of diet as a composite measure. Only a few studies to date have investigated the associations between dietary patterns and cognitive development. In future research, more well designed intervention trials are needed, with special consideration given to the interactive effects of nutrients.
Keywords: children; cognitive development; diet quality; micronutrients; nutrition.