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Arch Hellen Med, 37(6), November-December 2019, 727-733


Nutrition and brain development in childhood:
The effect of breastfeeding and its symbolic dimensions

A. Charissi, V. Karavida , E. Tympa, G. Vrionis, S. Mantziou
Department of Early Years Learning and Care, University of Ioannina, Ioannina, Greece

Human brain development begins in the uterus and continues in the early postnatal period. Individual brain development follows a genetic program that is affected by environmental factors, including nutrition. This article highlights the multifaceted effects of nutrition on the development of the child's brain, based on data derived from review of the relevant literature. Nutrition in infancy has been shown to have a significant impact on long-term health and development. Food deprivation during infancy has adverse effects on brain physiology and biochemistry and may even lead to permanent brain damage. Breastfeeding is the natural way of feeding the infant and the young child, providing it with the ideal nutrients for growth and health. In addition, breastfed children are documented to have a higher intelligence index than children who have been fed with milk formula. The transition from exclusive milk consumption to eating a variety of foods is necessary to meet the growing nutritional needs of the infant. Poor nutrition during this transitional period may have adverse effects on long-term health and mental development. A significant number of studies highlight the role of breastfeeding and the nutrients in breast milk in the development of the child's brain from birth to early childhood. Psycho-cultural knowledge, also, can offer insight concerning the implications of the symbolic dimensions of breastfeeding and the effects of the mother-child relationship on the development of the child brain.

Key words: Brain development, Breastfeeding, Early years, Nutrition, Symbolic dimensions of breastfeeding.

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