Micronutrients and Brain Development

Curr Nutr Rep. 2019 Jun;8(2):99-107. doi: 10.1007/s13668-019-0268-z.


Purpose of review: This review summarizes the most recent evidence regarding the effects of micronutrients on brain development.

Recent findings: Emerging evidence indicates that nutrition in the early life can profoundly influence neurodevelopment, affecting later life health outcomes, neurocognitive performances, and disease risks. Inadequate early life nutrition has been associated with some neuropsychiatric disorders. Epigenetic mechanisms could play a crucial role, imprinting the genomes in early life making the individual more susceptible to develop diseases later in life. Children adequately nourished are more likely to reach their developmental potential in cognitive, motor, and socioemotional abilities, with positive societal repercussions. Data from further clinical trials are needed before more definitive conclusions can be drawn regarding the efficacy of dietary interventions for improving neurocognitive and social outcomes and preventing some neuropsychiatric illnesses. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to make recommendations to our patients to adopt certain dietary habits to optimize early life nutritional status in order to avoid long-term adverse consequences. Strategies of prevention should focus on ensuring more quality food to preconceptional, pregnant, lactating women and to children in their early life, not only in those areas where malnutrition is common but also in developed countries.

Keywords: Brain development; Epigenetics; First 1000 days; Iodine; Iron; Micronutrient deficiencies; Micronutrients; Neurocognitive performances; Neurodevelopment; Neuropsychiatric diseases; Zinc.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Child
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Epigenomics
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Lactation
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Micronutrients / pharmacology*
  • Nutritional Status
  • Pregnancy
  • Zinc


  • Micronutrients
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Zinc