Knowledge Based Bio-Economy


Effect of diet on the mental performance of children (Nutrition)

Project acronym: NUTRIMENTHE

Title of project: Effect of diet on the mental performance of children

Research area: Nutrition

Contract No: 212652

EU contribution: €5 902 570

Start date: March 2008

Duration: 60 months


There is evidence that early nutrition may affect later mental performance, which has major implications for public health practice, policy development and our understanding of human biology. It also has repercussions forfood product development, economic progress and future wealth creation. However, much of the evidence to date is from animal, retrospective studies and short-term nutritional intervention studies in humans.

This project aims to significantly improve knowledge in this area by studying the role, mechanisms, risks and benefits of specific nutrients and food components for the mental performance of children. The team is focusing on development from the foetal stage to childhood. The nutrients addressed include long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs), minerals (iron and zinc) and B-vitamins as these have previously been indicated as important for mental performance.

The project will establish a team of leading international scientists (paediatricians, neurospsychologists, psychiatrists) from top academic centres and a leading food multinational, providing a critical mass of experts in the effect of diet on children's mental performance and epidemiologic studies analysing the long-term effects of pre- and early postnatal diet on children's mental performance and illness.

The project will follow up on randomised clinical intervention trials with specific nutrients initiated during pregnancy, infancy and childhood, establish quantitative requirements for n-3 LCPUFAs in children with restricted diet, and carry out a quantitative assessment of the interaction between nutrition and genetic variation with respect to mental performance. It will also develop a neuropsychological battery for common assessment of mental performance in the EU, together with consistent and clear pan-European recommendations on dietary requirements for children.

The NUTRIMENTHE team also aims to increase public knowledge in the EU, specifically parents, teachers and industry, putting in place the knowledge for appropriate health claims about how diet influences mental performance in children.

Expected impacts

This project will significantly improve knowledge through the study of role, mechanisms, risks and benefits of specific nutrients and food components and how they to respond to specific needs and improve the mental performance of children. The research will include quantification of the nutrient effects in early life on later cognitive and mental disorders, effects of food on mental state and performance, including mood, activation, attention, motivation, effort, perception, memory, and intelligence and the effects of food on mental illness.

Expected results

Of the nutrients addressed, there is a still a lack of clarity and little consensus on their role in neurodevelopment, mental performance and mental illness. The project aims to address this, especially with respect to LC-PUFAs, as their role is currently the subject of much debate in Europe.

The project will also address key issues in mental health in EU children where diet could play a role, for example cognitive development and cognition, anxiety/stress, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder, depression and other related conditions.

A wealth of information will be generated on food intake, which will be linked to biochemical measurements and to mental performance measurements in a large population across Europe. Using this data, the project aims to establish positive dietary recommendations for the nutrients addressed for the European population as a whole.

Website of

Coordinator: Coordinator Professor Cristina Campoy,

Organisation: University of Granada, (ES)