Do vitamins make for quick-thinkers?

Related tags Psychology

Australian scientists are to investigate how vitamins and minerals
influence the mental development of children, in a new study backed
by Unilever's Health Research Institute.

Scientists will team up with Unilever to examine the link between vitamins and minerals and brain development in children in the first study of its kind in Australia.

The research team at the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO​) is linking up with the Unilever Health Research Institute to chart developments in the cognitive performance of a group of South Australian children over a 12 month period.

"Cognitive performance covers important abilities like the ability to learn, memorise information and solve problems. These are important life skills and clearly significant for school performance,"​ said research leader Dr Janet Bryan.

"Very little research has been done in this area but it is thought that the diets of children in Australia may be low in several nutrients - vitamins and minerals - important to brain development,"​ she continued.

The scientists will study the impact of supplementing children's diets with certain nutrients that are necessary for the continuing development of the brain, especially the frontal lobes which are associated with a set of cognitive abilities called 'executive functions'. These include abilities like problem solving, planning, using strategies, evaluating and monitoring and staying on the task.

Around 400 children from seven to nine-years-old will be selected for the study because executive functions show spurts of development in this age group.

Researchers will then investigate the effects of three different combinations of nutrients on the cognitive and school performance of the children.

"The supplements that we will be using contain mixes of common, essential vitamins, minerals and other conventional nutrients which will not exceed the recommended daily nutrient intakes or tolerable upper intake limits as defined by Australian health authorities,"​ said Dr Bryan.

Study participants will be required to take one supplement per day. They will be asked to complete a series of cognitive and school performance tests with psychologists on four occasions over a 12 month period and to keep food diaries for periods of three days on four occasions during the trial.

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