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Improve Children’s Brain Health with Better Nutrition

Group of nourished children

In a study with important implications for underfed children in low-income countries and elsewhere, a new study in The BMJ medical journal found that six months of nutritional supplements can improve working memory and blood flow in children’s brains. Researchers from Tufts University travelled to villages in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa, where they gave 1,059 children, ages 1 through 7 years, a breakfast supplement high in plant polyphenols, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and protein. They compared results with children eating the standard local breakfast of rice or a common lower-quality supplement. They found that the enhanced nutritional supplement boosted cognition and increased cerebral blood flow in children younger than 4 and raised their hemoglobin concentration if they were anemic. Children older than 4 had improved body compositions—more lean tissue and less fat. With at least 250 million children worldwide younger than 5 that are failing to reach their cognitive developmental potential, these results pose significant impacts for children’s education and national development in low-income countries, say the researchers.

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Global Brief: Natural Thinking Spending Time in Nature Increases Cognitive Performance
More of our time is spent indoors than ever before. One of the ways by which nature may improve cognitive function (i.e. the acquisition of and goal-oriented use of knowledge) is by improving memory formation and recall, specifically that of short-term or working memory, and goal-oriented or directed attention; the kind that requires focused effort. By comparing and contrasting 13 studies, a team of researchers has shed light on this complex interaction in research published in Frontiers in Psychology. The studies used the backwards digit span task, which requires participants to invert a series of numbers and repeat them back. All demonstrated significantly improved cognition in nature as compared to urban environments. The benefits of studies like this are two-fold: not only are we learning more about how the brain interacts with its environment, but also how to leverage this interaction to lead healthier, more productive and happier lives.
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