When ACEs meet Poor Diet the Brain Loses

We’ve discussed in previous postings the impacts of early adversity on health and brain development (Great Vine Blog: Parenting Kids Who Are Ready to Parent, 2015). We’ve also talked about the impact of early adversity on our food preferences (Great Vine Blog – Food for Thought: Connecting the Dots Between ACEs and Food Preferences, 2016). Today we’d like to take a look at how these two factors can potentially come together to create the “Perfect Storm Effect” on a particularly important part of brain function, that of memory.

Research has clearly indicated that early life stress, or adverse childhood experience, has a detrimental effect on both cognition (Chen & Baram, 2015) and health that can last long into adulthood (Westfall & Nemeroff, 2015). There is also increasing evidence that eating a diet high in fat and sugar can also have a lasting impact on cognition (Belharz, Maniam, & Morris, 2015).

Recently a group of researchers has begun to explore the idea that when adversity and poor diet are combined, they might serve to magnify one another in their impact on the hippocampus, a brain structure that is important for memory (Morris, Le, & Maniam, 2016). It isn’t hard to imagine these two factors coming together. We often see families that are struggling with a variety of adversities relying on foods that are convenient and inexpensive, which often means they are high in sugar, salt, and fat.

Why is it that these two factors in particular are important? It seems to be about inflammation. Specifically, in regard to early stressors, what we know is that this leads to an inflammatory response in the body. Inflammation in the body leads to inflammation in the brain. When the brain is in a state of inflammation, fewer of the new neurons that are being born in the hippocampus make it to maturity. This lack of new neurons in the hippocampus leads to memory impairment (see figure 1). Similarly, in regard to poor diet, consumption of foods high in fat and sugar cause an increase of inflammation in the brain, specifically the hippocampus, which in turn leads to memory impairment (Belharz, Maniam, & Morris, 2015). In theory, at least, the damage coming from two paths would multiply its impact, since both factors have been shown to affect the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus (see figure 1).

Figure 1

Figure 1: The combined impact of early adversity and poor diet on memory

It seems critical, not only for us to understand this potential combined effect, but also to support parents in understanding the importance of making choices that will reduce the stressors their children are exposed to and result in feeding their children healthy  foods. . By so doing, they will be protecting their child’s developing brain and optimizing their development. The Growing Great Kids curriculum provides many conversation guides designed to facilitate these kinds of discussions. Check out the following sections specifically:

Growing Great Families: Unit 2-Reducing Stress: Tools for Stress Management

o   Protecting Your Children from Toxic Stress

o   Sizing Up Your Strengths…Reducing Stress

o   Warning Signs for Stress Overload

o   Problem Talk…A Problem Solving Skill

o   Growing Your Support Network

Growing Great Families: Unit 4-Blueprints for Emergent Use

o   #3 Reconnecting Parents to their Child’s Needs During Times of Stress

GGK – Prenatal Manual

o   Unit 1 – Module 4: Text Messaging Your Baby

o   Unit 2 – Module 5: Parenting to Grow a Resilient Child

o   Unit 3 – Module 3: Healthy Pregnancy Healthy Baby

o   Unit 4 – Module 2: Power Down Stress…Power Up Happiness

GGK Birth-12 Months Manual

o   4-6 months Unit – Basic Care Module

o   7-9 months Unit – Basic Care Module

GGK 13-24 Month Manual

o   13-15 months Unit – Basic Care Module

o   22-24 months Unit – Basic Care Module

GGK 25-36 Month Manual

o   31-36 months Unit – Basic Care Module

Preschool Manual

o   Module 3: Childhood Nutrition

Most parents are unaware of the connections between stress, the foods they feed their children and brain development. Sharing what you now know with parents can be a great motivator for parents making positive choices even when a family’s resources are limited.

 

Works Cited

Belharz, J., Maniam, J., & Morris, M. (2015). Diet-induced cognitive deficits: the role of fat and sugar, potential mechanisms and nutritional interventions. Nutrients, 6719-6738.

Chen, Y., & Baram, T. (2015). Toward understanding how early-life stress reprograms cognitive and emotional brain networks. Neuropsychopharmacology.

Great Vine Blog – Food for Thought: Connecting the Dots Between ACEs and Food Preferences. (2016, January 26). Retrieved from Greatkidsinc.org: https://www.greatkidsinc.org/blog/food-for-thought-connecting-the-dots-between-aces-and-food-preferences/

Great Vine Blog: Parenting Kids Who Are Ready to Parent. (2015, December 8). Retrieved from Greatkidsinc.org: https://www.greatkidsinc.org/blog/parenting-kids-who-are-ready-to-parent/

Jacka, F. N., Cherbuin, N., Anstey, K. J., Sachdev, P., & Butterworth, P. (2015). Western diet associated wtih smaller hippocampus: A longitudinal Investigation. BioMed Central.

Morris, M. J., Le, V., & Maniam, J. (2016). The impact of poor diet and early life stress on memory status. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences.

Westfall, N., & Nemeroff, C. (2015). The preeminence of early life trauma as a risk factor for worsened long-term health outcomes in women. Current Psychiatry Reports, 90.

 

Recent Posts

Love Leads to Learning

Love Leads to Learning

Carving out time to create our monthly blog is always refreshing for me. It’s an opportunity to step back from writing curriculum and...

read more
History is Not Your Destiny

History is Not Your Destiny

Some people are born with a love for reading. You know if you’re one of them! My sister is. Even as a child, she often had her head...

read more
Embrace the Joy!

Embrace the Joy!

As I sit down to write this blog, my week is coming to a close. It’s Friday. I’ve spent my workdays in a virtual conference learning,...

read more
Fresh Air

Fresh Air

For those of us who live in the northern hemisphere, spring is officially here, and that’s a reason to celebrate! I don’t know about...

read more
Hope

Hope

Hope can be defined as wanting something to happen or be true or to expect something with confidence, per Merriam-Webster....

read more
The Next Generation

The Next Generation

Great Kids has been up to some exciting things for the past couple of years, and we are finally ready to share with the rest of the world! We have completed our most comprehensive update of our GGK Prenatal to 36 months (GGK P36) curriculum series – we call it the “GGK P36 NEXT GENERATION” series. It has been a labor of love for us. We intentionally reviewed all components of the curriculum, listened to feedback from the field, and incorporated the best practices in early childhood for our revisions, and the result is spectacular.

read more

Growing Great Kids® Next Generation P-36

Our latest effort to support the work of Home Visiting, our Growing Great Kids® Next Generation (GGK®) Curriculum materials.

GGK® for Preschoolers

A Curriculum & Certification Program for Home Visitors aimed at fostering the growth of nurturing, developmentally enriched parenting skills, building protective factors for children 3 to 5 years old.

Open Enrollment

View upcoming virtual seminar open enrollment dates and subject areas.

How to Get Started

Start by scheduling a free 30-minute webinar to learn more about how your organization might benefit from Great Kids® affordable curriculum with no recurring costs.

Schedule Your Free Webinar Today

Frequently Asked Questions from Our New Customers

Please review common questions for those that are new to Great Kids®. Book your free, personalized webinar to learn more.

For Our Existing Customers

Thank you for being part of the Great Kids® family of agencies and programs. Support & information on Great Kids programs is just a click or phone call away.

Pre and Post Certification Products

All the tools you need to start using Great Kids® Curriculum right away and to continue to enhance the effectiveness of your program.

Ordering Materials

Need replacement manuals? Want to add to your library of Great Kids® resources? Find everything you need here.

  • New Products
  • Recovery-Impact-Support-Empower
  • Replacement Materials
  • Spanish Materials Available

Open Enrollment

View upcoming virtual seminar open enrollment dates and subject areas.

Existing Customer FAQs

Are you a past or current customer of Great Kids®? Find common questions and answers here.

Pricing Information for Existing Customers

Find pricing for companion products and other programs.

About Great Kids®

In partnership with home visitors, Great Kids has helped hundreds of thousands of children feel safe and secure, loved and valued, curious and capable.

Contact Great Kids

Contact Great Kids today by phone, by email, through social media, or by our mailing address.

 

Research

Great Kids® has incorporated decades of theoretical and empirical foundations regarding the kinds of interventions that have been shown to make a difference for children into the Growing Great Kids® Prenatal to 5 Years and Growing Great Families® curricula.

Alignment With Program Models

Our curricula are flexible enough to be used within a multitude of program models.

Protective Factors

The research-based principles of the Protective Factors Framework were foundational in the development of the Growing Great Kids® Curriculum.

Great Kids® Blog

Find informative articles about growing creativity in young children, welcoming a new sibling, playing outside, as well as general Great Kids® updates.

GK Video Podcast

A video podcast series dedicated to overcoming bias in others, and within our selves.

Parent’s Place Newsletter

Limited edition, weekly installment Newsletter published by Great Kids® from March through December 2020 with printable resources for home visitors and the families they serve.

Open Enrollment

Great Kids is proud to offer a variety of virtual seminar opportunities! Visit our Open Enrollment page for the latest dates and seminar offerings. 

 

We continuously add seminar dates to our list so please check back often. For more information about how to enroll, contact us at info@greatkidsinc.net.

 

You can also enter your email address in the form below to subscribe to receive regular updates from GK, including information on open enrollment. 

 

We look forward to partnering with you!

We look forward to connecting with you!