ENP: Taking Advantage of Nutrition for the Brain

Nutricia’s research into early life nutrition shows that the first 1,000 days have a lasting influence on the lifelong health of your child. Take advantage of this opportunity and start contributing to your child's future health with a nutritious diet.

Did you know that your genes play a much less significant role in the long-term health of your child than previously thought? At most 20 percent of health is the result of genes. At least 80 percent is due to external influences.

The latest Nutricia research on early life nutrition shows that diet plays a crucial role in this process — especially during the sensitive developmental phases that take place while the baby is still in the mother's womb  and their first two years of life. This is because the first 1,000 days are a period of rapid growth. During this period, nutrition can have a crucial impact on the development of your child and key elements of his or her organism: the brain, the immune system and energy metabolism. This presents a great opportunity for you as an expectant mother - you can positively influence the future health of your baby with healthy nutrition intake during pregnancy.

Taking advantage of this opportunity

Eating a healthy diet during pregnancy increases the likelihood that your child will develop in a healthy way.

Start contributing to your child's future health!

What is ENP?

Early Life Nutritional Programming: Nutricia’s research into early life nutrition studies how the diets of mother and child influence the child's later health.

During the first 1,000 days, the quality and quantity of the food you eat influences your baby’s brain development.

The continuous development and restructuring of neurons (nerve cells), as well as the communication between them, requires a lot of energy, vitamins, minerals and trace elements.

When you are pregnant what you eat also feeds your baby, so your body’s demand for some nutrients is going to increase. Important nutrients include LCPs, iron, zinc, iodine, and vitamins A, B6 and B12.

Folic acid

Which foods contain folic acid?

Folic acid is contained in foods such as spinach, asparagus, egg yolk and whole wheat bread.

Between days 21 and 28 of pregnancy, the embryo's neural tube closes. Their brain and spinal chord will then develop from this closed neural tube. Folic acid is important for making sure that the closure forms completely and without any problems.

In the worst case scenario, a lack of folic acid can lead to neural tube defects. But there's no need to worry. Getting enough folic acid to prevent neural tube defects is easy with a daily 400 microgram supplement taken in addition to a diet rich in folates. Since your body's demand for folic acid doubles during pregnancy, your doctor will gladly provide you with the information you need as well as a prescription for a folic acid.

LCPs: Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids


Fried, boiled or grilled oily fish such as mackerel, herring, sardines, salmon and tuna are all good sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids and iodine. Plant sources of mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids include sunflower oil and safflower oil (omega-6), as well as rapeseed oil, walnut oil and linseed oil (omega-3).

LCPs are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. The most important LCPs are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) - an omega-3 fatty acid, and arachidonic acid (AA, an omega-6 fatty acid). Linoleic acid and alpha linoleic acid, which are essential fatty acids, cannot be produced by the body itself, but must be obtrained by eating food. These are then used to form LCPs, which are essential during pregnancy for your baby’s brain development, nerve formation and eyesight.  LCPs are also essential elements of cell membranes.

The German Food Association (DGE) recommends that you eat fish once or twice a week during pregnancy. Doing so provides you with much needed long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPs). Naturally fatty saltwater fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel are especially rich in LCPUs.


Iodine is a trace element which the body cannot produce on its own, so getting enough of it is a matter of eating the right foods. Iodine is important for the production of thyroid hormones, which play a role in the metabolism and also the development of the brain. For this reason, your body's iodine requirements increase from 200 to 230 micrograms a day during pregnancy. Eating fish once or twice a week will help make sure you get enough of this trace element. Nutritionists also recommend moderate use of iodised salt. Your doctor may suggest you take iodine tablets.


Vitamin C supports iron absorption

We recommend drinking a glass of orange juice with whole wheat muesli or bread for breakfast. Potatoes are also a source of vitamin C which can improve the absorption of iron from leafy green vegetables.

Iron is responsible for making sure that the oxygen transport in your blood runs smoothly Since blood needs to be made available for the baby’s own circulation during pregnancy, for example, to provide the brain with all the nutrients it needs, your blood volume level increases, and your body's demand for iron increases with it. From now on, lean meats and ham should become a normal part of your diet, since your body is much better at absorbing iron from animal foods than plant foods. Should your doctor find that your iron levels are low despite your diet, they will prescribe you a preparation to help get your levels up.

A few nutrition tips can go a long way in helping you make the right decisions for your baby's future health. Start contributing to the development of your baby's brain today and set the foundation for his or her future health. Take advantage of this opportunity! 
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