Appraising success in meeting the world's nutritional needs has largely focused on infant mortality and anthropometric measurements with an emphasis on the first 1,000 days (conception to approximately age 2 years). This ignores the unique nutritional needs of the human brain. Although the intrauterine environment and the early postnatal years are important, equally critical periods follow during which the brain's intricate wiring is established for a lifetime of experience-driven remodeling. At the peak of this process during childhood, the human brain may account for 50% of the body's basal nutritional requirement. Thus, the consequences of proper nutritional management of the brain play out over a lifetime. Our motivation in preparing this review was to move the human brain into a more central position in the planning of nutritional programs. Here we review the macro- and micronutrient requirements of the human brain and how they are delivered, from conception to adulthood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-399
Number of pages19
JournalAnnual Review of Nutrition
StatePublished - Aug 21 2018


  • brain metabolism
  • evolution
  • life span
  • neurodevelopment
  • nutrients
  • plasticity


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