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Nutrition may help baby brain development

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Generations of New Zealanders have been steadily growing taller due to good nutrition and the same approach could also make youngsters brainer, according to organisers of a Massey University symposium on brain development and nutrition for babies.

Novel concepts on the role of iodine, omega-3 and vitamin D, as well as the importance of physical and emotional nurturing in the child's first three years for brain development, are among topics covered by a line-up of local and international experts at the Brainy Babies: nutrients for development symposium at the Albany campus next week.

"The brain develops through making connections, and what we hope is that the symposium will lead the way for important connections between nutrients and brain development as well as between researchers and health professionals to be made," says organiser and child nutrition researcher Dr Cath Conlon, at Massey's Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health.

The symposium will explore factors which influence brain development in-utero and after birth, and covers the importance of maternal nutrition, use of pregnancy supplements, and impact of the toxic environment created by maternal use of drugs and alcohol.

Speakers include; Dr Conlon on brain nutrient interactions; Associate Professor Jane Coad, Massey University, on iron and brain development; Dr Carmel Collins, Child Nutrition Research Centre, Flinders Medical Centre, South Australia, on the role of omega-3 fatty acids in brain development; Keryn O'Neill, Brainwave Trust, on how experiences of a child's first three years shape the brain; and Associate Professor Darryl Eyles, Queensland Brain Institute, on vitamin D deficiency and its link to brain development and the risk of developing schizophrenia.

Master Chef 2011 winner Nadia Lim, a nutrition and dietetics professional who advises on diet and lifestyle to manage diabetes, will present ideas for safe, nutritious food for mothers and babies.

Dr Ian Hassall, children's advocate, research associate at the Institute of Public Policy at AUT University and New Zealand's first Children's Commissioner who in 2010 was the recipient of UNICEF International's Aldo Farina Award for child advocacy, will give the opening address.

"The programme presents a balanced mix of nutrition, science, research and practical suggestions all of which will be valuable and interesting to those working in maternal and infant health," says co-organiser and nutrition researcher Dr Pam von Hurst, of the institute.

Brainy babies: nutrients for development: Thursday December 8, Sir Neil Waters Lecture Theatres, Gate One, Albany Campus.

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