Brain foods - the role of diet in brain performance and health

Nutr Rev. 2021 May 12;79(6):693-708. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuaa091.


The performance of the human brain is based on an interplay between the inherited genotype and external environmental factors, including diet. Food and nutrition, essential in maintenance of brain performance, also aid in prevention and treatment of mental disorders. Both the overall composition of the human diet and specific dietary components have been shown to have an impact on brain function in various experimental models and epidemiological studies. This narrative review provides an overview of the role of diet in 5 key areas of brain function related to mental health and performance, including: (1) brain development, (2) signaling networks and neurotransmitters in the brain, (3) cognition and memory, (4) the balance between protein formation and degradation, and (5) deteriorative effects due to chronic inflammatory processes. Finally, the role of diet in epigenetic regulation of brain physiology is discussed.

Keywords: Brain; cognition; diet; epigenetics; inflammation; proteostasis; signaling.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain* / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Diet* / statistics & numerical data
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Food / standards
  • Health* / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans