Journal Mobile Options
Table of Contents
Vol. 22, No. 5-6, 2000
Issue release date: September–December (December 2000)
Dev Neurosci 2000;22:481–487

Diet, Lipids and Brain Development

Salvati S. · Attorri L. · Avellino C. · Di Biase A. · Sanchez M.
aNeurochemistry Section, Laboratory of Metabolism and Pathological Biochemistry, bLaboratory of Cell Biology, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy

Individual Users: Register with Karger Login Information

Please create your User ID & Password

Contact Information

I have read the Karger Terms and Conditions and agree.

To view the fulltext, please log in

To view the pdf, please log in


Brain development is a sequential anatomical process characterised by specific well-defined stages of growth and maturation. One of the fundamental and necessary events in the normal development of the central nervous system in vertebrates is the formation of a myelin sheath. It is becoming more evident that this process is influenced by dietary lipids. A number of findings have indicated that the administration of a diet deficient in essential fatty acids during development causes hypomyelination in the rat brain. Our studies have shown that lipids can also play a role in accelerating myelinogenesis in the brain of rats whose mothers had been fed, during pregnancy and lactation, a lipid fraction extracted from yeast grown on n-alkanes. Further studies have shown that accelerated myelinogenesis is connected to a precocious appearance of behavioural reflexes. Thus, the use of particular lipids in human nutrition must be carefully screened for possible effects on brain development.

Copyright © 2000 S. Karger AG, Basel

Copyright / Drug Dosage

Copyright: All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be translated into other languages, reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, microcopying, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher or, in the case of photocopying, direct payment of a specified fee to the Copyright Clearance Center.
Drug Dosage: The authors and the publisher have exerted every effort to ensure that drug selection and dosage set forth in this text are in accord with current recommendations and practice at the time of publication. However, in view of ongoing research, changes in goverment regulations, and the constant flow of information relating to drug therapy and drug reactions, the reader is urged to check the package insert for each drug for any changes in indications and dosage and for added warnings and precautions. This is particularly important when the recommended agent is a new and/or infrequently employed drug.
Disclaimer: The statements, opinions and data contained in this publication are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of the publishers and the editor(s). The appearance of advertisements or/and product references in the publication is not a warranty, endorsement, or approval of the products or services advertised or of their effectiveness, quality or safety. The publisher and the editor(s) disclaim responsibility for any injury to persons or property resulting from any ideas, methods, instructions or products referred to in the content or advertisements.


  1. Sinclair AJ: Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in the mammalian brain. Proc Nutr Soc 1975;34:287–291.

    External Resources

  2. Crawford MA, Hassan AG, Stevens PA: Essential fatty acids requirements in pregnancy and lactation with special reference to brain development. Prog Lipid Res 1981;20:31–40.
  3. Innis SM: Essential fatty acids and growth and development. Prog Lipid Res 1991;30:39–103.
  4. Chamberlain JG: The possible role of long-chain, omega-3 fatty acids in human brain phylogeny. Perspect Biol Med 1996;39:436–445.
  5. Broadhurst CL, Cunnane SC, Crawford MA: Rift Valley lake fish and shellfish provided brain specific nutrition for early Homo. Br J Nutr 1998;79:3–21.
  6. Crawford MA: The role of essential fatty acids in neural development: Implications for perinatal nutrition. Am J Clin Nutr 1993;57:7035–7105.
  7. Carlson SE, Werkman SH, Peeples JM, Cooke RJ, Tolley EA: First year growth of preterm infants fed standard compared to marine-oil n–3 supplemented formula. Lipids 1992;27:901–907.
  8. Carlson SE, Werkman SH, Rhodes PG, Tolley EA: Visual-acuity development in healthy preterm infants: Effect of marine oil supplementation. Am J Clin Nutr 1993;58:35–42.
  9. Cunnane SC, Harbige LS, Crawford MA: The importance of energy and nutrient supply in human brain evolution. Nutr Health 1993;9:219–235.
  10. Carnielli VP, Wattimena DJL, Luijendijk IHT, Boerlage A, Degenhart HJ, Sauer PJJ: The very low birth weight premature infant is capable of synthesizing arachidonic and docosahexaenoic acids from linoleic and linolenic acids. Pediatr Res 1996;40:169–171.
  11. Farquharson J, Cockburn F, Patrick WA, Jamieson EC, Logan RW: Infant cerebral cortex phospholipid fatty acid composition and diet. Lancet 1992;340:810–813.
  12. Sanders TAB, Rane SK: Comparison of the metabolism of linoleic and linolenic acids in the fetal rat. Am Nutr Metab 1987;31:349–353.
  13. Budowski P: Ω–3 fatty acids in health and disease. World Rev Nutr Diet 1998;57:241–274.
  14. Knapp HR: Physiological and biochemical effects of n–3 fatty acids in man; in Sinclair A, Gibson R (eds): Essential Fatty Acids and Eicosanoids. Champaign, American Oil Chemists’ Society, 1992, pp 330–333.
  15. Radier PM: Chronology of neuron development: Animal studies and their clinical applications. Dev Med Child Neurol 1980;22:525–545.

    External Resources

  16. Dobbing J: Vulnerable periods of brain development; in Eliott K, Knight J (eds): Lipids, Malnutrition and Developing Brain. A Ciba Foundation Symposium. Excerpta Medica. Amsterdam, Elsevier, 1972, pp 9–19.
  17. Norton WT, Cammer W: Isolation and characterization of myelin; in Morell P (ed): Myelin. New York, Plenum Press, 1984, pp 147–180.
  18. Jacobson S: Sequence of myelination in the brain of the albino rat. A. Cerebral cortex, thalamus and related stuctures. J Comp Neurol 1963;121:5–10.
  19. Milner RJ, Lai C, Nave KA, Lenoir D, Ogata J, Sutcliffe JG: Nucleotide sequences of two mRNAs for rat brain myelin proteolipid protein. Cell 1985;42:931–939.
  20. Matthieu JM, Amiguet P: Myelin/oligodendrocyte glicoprotein expression during development in normal and myelin deficient mice. Dev Neurosci 1990;1:293–302.
  21. Gardinier MV, Amiguet P, Linington C, Matthieu JM: Myelin/oligodendrocyte glycoprotein is a unique membrane of the immunoglobulin superfamily. J Neurosci Res 1992;33:177–187.
  22. Sastry PS: Lipids of nervous tissue: Composition and metabolism. Prog Lipid Res 1985;24:69–176.
  23. Toda K, Kobayashi T, Goto I, Ohno K, Eto Y, Inui K, Okada S: Lysosulfatide (sulfogalactosylsphingosine) accumulation in tissues from patients with metachromatic leukodystrophy. J Neurochem 1990;55:1585–1588.
  24. Kobayashi T, Goto I, Yamanaka T, Suzuki Y, Nakano T, Suzuki K: Infantile and fetal globoid cell leukodystrophy: Analysis of galactosylceramide and galactosylsphingosine. Ann Neurol 1998;24:5173–5176.
  25. Norton WT, Cammer W: Chemical pathology of diseases involving myelin; in Morell P (ed): Myelin. New York, Plenum Press, 1984, pp 369–403.
  26. Wiggins RC: Myelin development and nutritional insufficiency. Brain Res Rev 1982;4:15–75.
  27. McKenna MC, Campagnoni AT: Effect of pre- and postnatal essential fatty acid deficiency on brain development and myelination. J Nutr 1979;109:1195–1204.

    External Resources

  28. Berkow SE, Campagnoni AT: Essential fatty acids deficiency: Effect of cross-fostering mice at birth on brain growth and myelination. J Nutr 1981;11:886–894.
  29. Berkow SE, Campagnoni AT: Essential fatty acids deficiency: Effect of cross-fostering mice at birth on myelin levels and composition. J Nutr 1983;113:582–591.

    External Resources

  30. DeWille JW, Farmer SJ: Postnatal dietary fat influences mRNAs involved in myelination. Dev Neurosci 1992;14:61–68.

    External Resources

  31. Enslen M, Milon H, Malone A: Effect of low intake of n–3 fatty acids during development of brain phospholipid fatty acid composition and exploratory behavior in rats. Lipids 1991;26:203–208.
  32. Galli C, Messen A, Oliverio A, Paoletti R: Deficiency of fatty acids during pregnancy and avoidance learning in the progeny. Pharmacol Res Commun 1975;7:71–77.
  33. Birch EE, Birch DG, Hoffmann DR, Uauay RD: Dietary essential fatty acid supply and visual acuity development. Invest Ophthalmol Visual Sci 1992;33:3242–3253.
  34. Salvati S, Conti de Vergiliis L, Di Felice M, de Gier J, Demel RA, Serlupi Crescenzi G, Tomassi G, Tagliamonte B: Morphological and biochemical changes in myelin subfractions of developing rats fed microbial lipids. J Neurochem 1984;42:634–643.
  35. Schlenk H: Odd-numbered and new essential fatty acids. Fed Proc 1972;31:1430–1434.

    External Resources

  36. Mead JF, Levis GM: Alpha oxidation of the brain fatty acids. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 1962;9:231–234.
  37. Edwards AM, Braun PE: Gene expression of the central and peripheral nervous system myelin membrane 2′,3′-cyclic nucleotide 3′-phosphodiesterase in development. Dev Neurosci 1988;10:75–80.
  38. Salvati S, Sanchez M, Malvezzi Campeggi L, Suchanek G, Breitschop H, Lassmann H: Accelerated myelinogenesis by dietary lipids in rat brain. J Neurochem 1996;67:1744–1750.

    External Resources

  39. Gozzo S, Oliverio A, Salvati S, Serlupi Crescenzi G, Tagliamonte B, Tomassi G: Nutritional studies of the lipid fraction of n-alkane grown yeast. IV. Effects on behavioural development. Nutr Rep Intern 1978;17:357–366.
  40. Gozzo S, Oliverio A, Salvati S, Serlupi Crescenzi G, Tagliamonte B, Tomassi G: Effects of dietary phospholipids and odd-chain fatty acids an the behavioural maturation of mice. Food Chem Toxicol 1982;20:153–157.

    External Resources

  41. Rogan WJ, Gladen BC: Breast feeding and cognitive development. Early Hum Dev 1993;31:181–193.
  42. Lucas A, Morley R: Breast milk and subsequent intelligence quotient in children born preterm. Lancet 1991;339:261–264.
  43. Sack J: Hormones in milk; in Filer S, Fidelman AI (eds): Human Milk, Its Biological and Social Value. Excerpta Medica. Amsterdam, Elsevier, 1980, pp 56–61.
  44. Salvati S, Attorri L, Di Felice M, Campeggi LM, Pintor A, Tiburzi F, Tomassi G: Effect of dietary oils on brain enzymatic activities (2′-3′-cyclic nucleotide 3′ phosphodiesterase and acetylcholinesterase) and muscarinic receptor sites in growing rats. J Nutr Biochem 1996;7:113–117.
  45. Salvati S, Campeggi ML, Benedetti PC, Di Felice M, Gentile V, Nardini M, Tomassi G: Effects of dietary oils on fatty acid composition and lipid peroxidation of brain membranes (myelin and synaptosomes) in rats. J Nutr Biochem 1993;4:346–350.

    External Resources

  46. Saste MD, Carver JD, Stockard JE, Benford VJ, Chen LT, Phelps CP: Maternal diet fatty acid composition affects neurodevelopment in rat pups. J Nutr 1998;128:740–743.

Pay-per-View Options
Direct payment This item at the regular price: USD 9.00
Payment from account With a Karger Pay-per-View account (down payment USD 150) you profit from a special rate for this and other single items.
This item at the discounted price: USD 8.00