Neural development refers to the processes that shape, generate and reshape the central nervous system, from the earliest stages of embryogenesis to the final stages of life. These processes are mediated by a multitude of factors including: genetic and metabolic disease, immine disorders, infectious diseases, deprivation, physical trauma, toxicity and environmental factors and last but by no means least by nutritional factors. In relation to the role of nutrition, there is no doubt that nourishing and healthy foods are critical for optimal brain development. In fact, there are specific nutrients which are thought to help moderate the brain’s communication system including selective dopamine related neurotransmitters’. The function of the brain is largely governed by biochemical processes which rely on fuel from specialised fats, proteins such as amino acids, selective nutrients such as the essential trace elements (e.g., iodine, zinc, selenium, magnesium, copper etc) and glucose (from carbohydrates).
One important consideration is that the brain is the fattest organ in the human body and is approximately 60-70 % lipid. There are some rather unique and specialised fats in the brain called highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFAs) which vary in structure and function. They make-up about 25-30% of neuronal membranes and have critical yet highly complex roles throughout the central nervous system. Two of the key HUFAs in neuronal cells are the omega-3 HUFAs called docosahexaenoic acid (or DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (or EPA).