Nutrients for Multi-dimensional Learning
The nutrition that children receive in their first two years
is the most important of their life span and will determine
their true genetic potential.
Expert researchers have conducted clinical trials on humans
and animals to isolate the specific nutrients that support
Multi-dimensional learning in toddlers occurs through a
combination of observation (vision), study (imagination and
memory), play (physical growth and skill development), and a
strong immune system (protection from infectious diseases).
There is an exact science behind the nutrients that are the
catalysts for these components of multi-dimensional learning.
Your toddler’s visual skills help them take in information
and learn about the world around them. Without good eyesight,
learning will be severely impaired. Hoffman’s study of breastfed
infants revealed that a dietary supply of AA and DHA in the
first year of life optimised visual development in infants. In
another study by Birch, it was found that early dietary intake
of AA and DHA is necessary for the optimal development of the
brain and eye of an infant.
There are several studies that strongly suggest that macular
pigment protects the eye from light damage by absorbing blue
light. Landrum’s one-year study of the macular pigment revealed
that supplementing the diet with lutein increased macular
pigmentation and prevented damaging blue light from reaching the
retinal tissues by 30-40%.
Hammond’s study also demonstrated that lutein supplementation
significantly improved visual function. His study concluded that
macular pigments improve visual performance by promoting a
healthy retina and lens.
The rapid growth spurt of the human brain begins in the last
trimester of pregnancy, culminating at 18-24 months of life.
This is the critical period when the brain has a “once-only
opportunity to grow properly”.
A diet with the essential nutrients to support brain
development has an impact on intelligence. A prospective study
following infants who had severe malnutrition at first year of
age and are now young adults is ongoing in Jamaica. The study
compared normal children of the same age who did not suffer from
malnutrition at infancy. According to the results of the study,
at 15 years of age, the malnourished children have lower
intelligence quotient (IQ), do not perform as well in school and
have a higher rate of learning disabilities.
Choline and taurine are two of the nutrients that enhance
learning. Studies indicate that perinatal supplementation with
choline enhances memory and learning functions that endure
throughout the life span. Conversely, any deficit in choline
will also cause memory and learning impairment to persist
Taurine is the most abundant amino acid in the neural
tissues. It is also present in high concentrations in the
developing brain and retina. The severe effects of taurine
deficiency have been well established in human and animal
studies, among which are growth retardation and abnormality in
eye and ear functions.
Children need a lot of energy in order to engage in active
play. In order to stimulate learning through active play,
toddlers need to be growing healthily in accordance with their
age group. Studies indicate that vitamins A and D, zinc and
calcium play a major role in inducing growth of cells, nerves,
muscles, teeth and bones.
Studies have shown that children lacking in vitamin A fail to
grow but when given vitamin A supplements, they gain weight and
grow taller. The growth of bones is a complex process involving
the conversion of small bones into larger bones. This
bone-remodeling process involves the undoing of some bones.
Vitamin A helps in this dismantling by helping the enzymes to
break down and remove the bones that are not needed.
The role of vitamin D in bone growth is to maintain blood
concentrations of calcium and phosphorus. Bones grow denser and
stronger as they absorb these minerals. Zinc supports many
functions in the body. In relation to growth, it affects thyroid
function, influencing behaviour and learning performance.
Calcium is the most common mineral in the body, 99% of which is
found in bones and teeth and 1% in blood and soft tissues. It
aids in bone growth, tooth development and muscle contraction.
Toddlers need a good immune protection system to stay healthy
and fight off serious infections as well as common childhood
ailments. Healthy children are better and faster learners,
enjoying uninterrupted school days. Scientific studies have
discovered that alpha-lactalbumin, oligofructose and nucleotides
aid in boosting the immune system.
Alpha-lactalbumin is the predominant protein found in breast
milk (20-25% of total protein), whereas cow’s milk contains much
less (2-5% of total protein). It provides infants with essential
amino acids and aids in the absorption of beneficial minerals
such as zinc and iron. In addition, it has been found that
digestion of alpha-lactalbumin produces peptides that have
antibacterial and immunostimulatory properties, thereby
providing increased immunity against infections.
A clinical study on the infants fed with formula milk
enriched with alpha-lactalbumin found that the gastro-intestinal
tolerance of these infants was similar to infants fed on breast
milk, proving that alpha-lactalbumin supplementation is well
Oligofructose provides functional and nutritional benefits to
foods. It has similar properties to sugar and is often used as a
replacement for sugar. It has been termed as a prebiotic as it
is non-digestible and stimulates the growth and activity of
health-stimulating bacteria in the intestine. It also serves as
a dietary fibre, thereby assisting in digestion and reducing the
risk of constipation.
The best known nutritional property of oligofructose is its
stimulation of bifidobacteria growth in the intestine.
Among the health benefits of bifidobacteria are inhibiting
the growth of harmful bacteria, stimulating of components of the
immune system and aiding the absorption of certain ions and the
synthesis of B vitamins.
Nucleotides are non-protein nitrogens found in human milk.
Animal studies indicate that dietary nucleotides have beneficial
immune functions. In a study on the effects of dietary
nucleotides on immune function in infants, it was found that the
activity of natural killer cells was significantly higher in
breastfed infants and infants fed on formula milk fortified with
nucleotides. The study concluded that nucleotides provide
The evidence presented by these trials is strong indication
that supplementation with the right nutrients is undoubtedly
beneficial to multi-dimensional learning