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2016 Conference

Abstract Number: ETH-03 | ID: 4814

Boosting the brainpower and prevention of nutrition-associated diseases – The balance of benefits and harms

Adetoun Mustapha*, Centre for Environment and Health, Imperial College London, United Kingdom,;
The importance of nutrition in building disease resistant bodies and mental capacity is well recognized. Improvements in children’s later intelligence quotient (IQ) linked to certain nutrients such as omega 3 essential fatty acids consumed during pregnancy and childhood has gained attention. Poor nutrition during pregnancy and early life can equally result in impaired physical growth and development throughout an individual’s life. Cognitive ability has been reported to influence many key life outcomes. Individuals have tried to improve their own or their children’s intellectual abilities through learning aids, study and effort. The possibility of lessening the effort needed with nutrition, drugs or medical techniques has been reported. There is considerable interest in the concept of enhancing cognition or slowing its decline through food supplementation.
Based on the ethical principles of beneficence and justice, there is reason to support strategies for improved nutrition, because it would help many people. However, food is also part of cultural identity and an important aspect of social interaction. Therefore, food is not only an instrument for disease prevention.
To what extent and how should attempts to improve aspects of cognitive ability and functioning through the use of nutrients or diets that are proven to improve memory, aid in learning, or help people make better decisions be permitted or promoted? What are the opportunities and challenges presented by these “natural cognitive enhancements’’? Should diets be regulated? Should products and supplements frequently lacking in proven beneficial nutrients be restricted or even banned? How does parental intervention impair or enhance children’s future freedom to choose? What are the societal implications of changing cultural landscapes and lifestyles that needs to be carefully assessed and balanced? This session will promote discussion around these questions.