[PARENTING] Helping Your Child’s Cognitive Development | By Quinn Hand ND
Brain development begins within a week of conception and by five weeks after conception, the cells begin dividing rapidly to form the 100 billion neurons (brain cells) present at birth. By the age of four, the brain has increased to 80 percent of its adult weight. Nutrition, including supplementation, plays a fundamental role in this rapid development. In fact, there are three supplements that can help support your child’s cognitive development that you may want to add to your back-to-school shopping list this year.
Omega-3 Fatty AcidsWhat: Omega-3 DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is specifically known as a vital component for brain, visual and nervous system health and development. Unfortunately, many children are not consuming adequate amounts of omega-3s due to low dietary intake of fish and fish oils. Why: North American data suggest that children are consuming only 19 mg of the recommended 150 mg/d of omega-3 DHA. Such deficiency is associated with learning difficulties, behavioural problems, ADD/ADHD and developmental delay. However, a study of 100 school-aged children with below average academic performance showed that supplementation with omega-3 led to significant improvement in reading, spelling and behaviour in 40 percent of students. How: Pregnant women should consume at least 300 mg of DHA per day and children should consume at least 150 mg of DHA daily to support brain development.
Multi-Vitamin and MineralsWhat: An American clinical trial studied 633 preschool children and found that many were deficient in vitamins and minerals, cornerstones of proper brain development. Such deficiencies can be exacerbated by dietary restrictions or picky eating habits. In such cases, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a daily supplement, such as a chewable vitamin. Why: A 2008 study showed that healthy children aged 8 to 14 given a multi-vitamin and mineral saw increased accuracy in attention-based tasks after only a few weeks of supplementation. Similarly, a 2010 review of studies found that multiple micronutrient supplementation modestly improved reasoning abilities and academic performance in children. How: Look for multi-vitamin-mineral supplements in liquid, powdered or chewable varieties, but ensure they are free of artificial flavours, colours, preservatives and aspartame.
Vitamin DWhat: Well known for its role in the development of bones and teeth, vitamin D also plays a critical role in brain development. Early animal studies showed that rats born to mothers deficient in vitamin D had smaller and more poorly developed brains. Why: Evidence suggests that vitamin D’s involvement in brain function is reflected by the wide distribution of vitamin D receptors throughout the brain, affecting proteins known to be directly involved in learning and memory, motor control and possibly social behavior. In 2014, research showed that adequate vitamin D is required to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, where it shapes structure and wiring, and affects social behaviour. How: The Vitamin D Council (vitamindcouncil.org) suggests the following doses for optimal well-being:
- Pregnancy: 4000-6000 IU
- Healthy children under the age of 1 year: 1,000 IU (unless breast feeding and mother using 4000-6000 IU)
- Healthy children over the age of 1 year: 1,000 IU per 25 lbs of body weight.