Early Life Nutrition and Brain Development: Breakthroughs, Challenges and New Horizons

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The role of early life nutrition's impact on relevant health outcomes across the lifespan laid the foundation for the field titled The Developmental Origins of Health and Disease. Studies in this area initially concentrated on nutrition and the risk of adverse cardio-metabolic and cancer outcomes. More recently the role of nutrition in early brain development and the subsequent influence of later mental health has become more evident. Scientific breakthroughs have elucidated two mechanisms behind long-term nutrient effects on the brain, including the existence of critical periods for certain nutrients during brain development and nutrient driven epigenetic modifications of chromatin. While multiple nutrients and nutritional conditions have the potential to modify brain development, iron can serve as a paradigm to understand both mechanisms. New horizons in nutritional medicine include leveraging the mechanistic knowledge of nutrient-brain interactions to propose novel nutritional approaches that protect the developing brain through better timing of nutrient delivery and potential reversal of negative epigenetic marks. The main challenge in the field is detecting whether a change in nutritional status truly affects the brain's development and performance in humans. To that end, a strong case can be made to develop and utilize bioindicators of a nutrient's effect on the developing brain instead of relying exclusively on biomarkers of the nutrient's status.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalProceedings of the Nutrition Society
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved.


  • Brain Development
  • Developmental Origins
  • Epigenetics
  • Nutrition

PubMed: MeSH publication types

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


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