Of 'junk food' and 'brain food': how parental diet influences offspring neurobiology and behaviour

Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2021 Aug;32(8):566-578. doi: 10.1016/j.tem.2021.04.001. Epub 2021 Apr 30.


Unhealthy lifestyles and mental health problems are increasingly prevalent globally. Not only are 'junk food'-induced overweight and obesity risk factors for the development of brain disorders but they are also associated intergenerationally with ill health. Here, we reflect on the current knowledge of how maternal and paternal diet influences offspring brain development and behaviour, potentially predisposing children to mental health problems. Mounting evidence indicates diet-induced maternal and paternal programming of infant metabolism and neurobehavioural function, with potential downstream effects on mental health and resilience. Beyond the central nervous system (CNS), the microbiota-gut-brain axis has emerged as an important mediator of host physiology. We discuss how intergenerational seeding of the gut microbiome via parental lineage can influence offspring gut health and neurobiology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain
  • Brain-Gut Axis*
  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure*
  • Neurobiology
  • Paternal Exposure*