Diet and cognition: interplay between cell metabolism and neuronal plasticity

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2013 Nov;16(6):726-33. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e328365aae3.


Purpose of study: To discuss studies in humans and animals revealing the ability of foods to benefit the brain: new information with regards to mechanisms of action and the treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Recent findings: Dietary factors exert their effects on the brain by affecting molecular events related to the management of energy metabolism and synaptic plasticity. Energy metabolism influences neuronal function, neuronal signaling, and synaptic plasticity, ultimately affecting mental health. Epigenetic regulation of neuronal plasticity appears as an important mechanism by which foods can prolong their effects on long-term neuronal plasticity.

Summary: The prime focus of the discussion is to emphasize the role of cell metabolism as a mediator for the action of foods on the brain. Oxidative stress promotes damage to phospholipids present in the plasma membrane such as the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexenoic acid, disrupting neuronal signaling. Thus, dietary docosahexenoic acid seems crucial for supporting plasma membrane function, interneuronal signaling, and cognition. The dual action of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in neuronal metabolism and synaptic plasticity is crucial for activating signaling cascades under the action of diet and other environmental factors, using mechanisms of epigenetic regulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Diet*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Epigenomics
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Polyphenols / administration & dosage


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Polyphenols