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Exploring the Impact of Nutrition on Cognitive Development in Children

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Written by
Dr. Emily Norton
  • Icon Calendar 18 May 2024
  • Icon Page 613 words
  • Icon Clock 4 min read
English (United States)
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Nutrition is among the elements influencing cognitive development. Owing to the fast brain growth that occurs during the early stages of development, infants may be particularly susceptible to dietary deficits. Growth factors, such as nutrition, have an impact on a child’s genetic code, which affects how their brain develops when exposed to undernutrition, overnutrition, or a healthy diet at early stages of development.

Impact of Malnutrition on Cognitive Development

Undernutrition is very severe and can lead to brain development impairment in children, which is irreversible, affecting the later life of an individual. Studies show that malnutrition can cause abnormal growth and behavioral problems as nutrient deficits influence cognitive development, neurotransmitter formation, and differentiation of cells of the brain (Ansuya et al. 2023, p. 1). Malnutrition leads to a wide range of cognitive disorders, which results in inadequate neurological growth and thereafter in life cause adverse effects on cognitive functioning and academic performance. As a result, early in development, the brain forms faster than the other parts of the body, and because its structures are in continuous growth, children are particularly predisposed to the effects of nutritional deficiencies compared to adults.

Exploring the Impact of Nutrition on Cognitive Development in Children

Influence of Overnutrition on Cognitive Development

Apart from obesity, overnutrition causes cognitive development deficits through numerous mechanisms affecting the brain capacity and rational thinking of a growing baby. Recent research on the effects of obesity and high nutrition has raised the possibility that overeating alone may have cognitive effects (Zhang et al. 2022, p. 5). Obesity and overnutrition-induced cognitive impairment result from several cellular processes, including behavioral changes and other pathways that affect cognition and psychological changes in a growing child. Accordingly, a high intake of nutrients affects biological processes, leading to the abnormal expression, functioning, and formation of the central nervous system, which stimulates damage to neuron tissues, a condition that hinders mental growth.

Effects of a Balanced Diet on Cognitive Development

The human brain needs every fundamental nutrient to construct and preserve its cellular makeup, and appropriate nutrition is vital for a child’s cognitive development and functioning in the early stages of physiological and psychological formation. Research indicates that the initial 1,000 days of a newborn are vital for cognitive development, and sufficient provision of a balanced diet is critical for optimal health and growth (Roberts et al. 2022, p. 2). Correct dietary intake is a fundamental part of the enzyme pathways within the brain and serves a critical function in cell division, reproduction of DNA, and hormone breakdown necessary for efficient cognitive development. Hence, proper nourishment in early childhood has the potential to have a long-term relationship with underlying cognitive thinking speed, leading to improved neural growth of human mental expression in the initial year of life.


Nutrition is an essential facet of cognitive development in childhood. Nutrition affects a child’s biological makeup, which impacts how their brain grows when subjected to undernutrition, overnutrition, or a balanced diet during the initial phases of development. According to the findings, a poor diet can hurt a child’s brain makeup, while proper nourishment positively influences human cognitive development at the initial and later stages of life.

Reference List

Ansuya et al. 2023, ‘Effect of nutrition intervention on cognitive development among malnourished preschool children: Randomized controlled trial’, Scientific Reports, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 1-9, viewed 11 July 2023, DOI: 10.1038/s41598-023-36841-7.

Roberts, M et al. 2022, ‘The effects of nutritional interventions on the cognitive development of preschool-age children: A systematic review’, Nutrients, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 1-15, viewed 11 July 2023, DOI: 10.3390/nu14030532.

Zhang, Q et al. 2022, ‘Overnutrition induced cognitive impairment: Insulin resistance, gut-brain axis, and neuroinflammation,’ Frontiers in Neuroscience, vol. 16, pp. 1-20, viewed 11 July 2023, DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2022.884579.

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