Nutrition supplement early in life may protect the brain in adulthood

Nutrition supplement

Early-life stress has been shown to impair learning and memory in later life. But new research, published online in The FASEB Journal, suggests that improved nutrition may help offset the negative effects of this stress.

Specifically, using mice, scientists focused on essential micronutrients, including methionine, vitamins B6and B12, and folic acid, none of which are made by the body and need to be ingested through diet.

They found that although early-life stress reduces the levels of these nutrients in mouse, nutrition supplement could prevent the reduction.

In addition, nutrition supplement could prevent some of the lasting negative effects of early-life stress on later learning and memory in adult offspring.

Researchers from the University of Amsterdam led the study. They hope that this study can contribute to novel nutritional strategies that help prevent lasting consequences of a stressful childhood on later mental health.

In the study, the researchers mimicked a stressful early-life environment during the first week after birth (postnatal days 2-9) for newborn mice and their mothers. Control mice and their mothers were housed in a normal environment.

During the stress period, half of the mouse mothers received a standard rodent diet, whereas the other half received a diet that was supplemented with essential micronutrients.

The mouse mothers who ate the diet with supplements developed higher micronutrient levels in maternal milk and subsequently in the blood and the brains of their pups.

After the initial stress period, all mice received a standard diet and environment. Once the mice became 4 months old, their learning and memory skills were tested in various tasks.

The result showed that mice that were previously exposed to early-life stress performed worse than control animals and demonstrated poor learning and memory skills.

However, stress-exposed mice from mothers that received the supplemented diet performed equally well as the control mice did.

Researchers suggest that the finding shows beneficial cognitive effects of a sound postnatal diet. The nutrients tested are familiar ones, but the results speak for themselves.

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Citation: Naninck EFG, et al. (2016). Early micronutrient supplementation protects against early stress-induced cognitive impairments. FASEB J, published online. DOI:10.1096/fj.201600834R.
Figure legend: This image is for illustrative purposes only.