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Table 1 Role of selected nutrients in brain function and their food sources [23, 24]

From: Status of nutrients important in brain function in phenylketonuria: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Nutrient Role in brain function Main food sources
DHA, EPA and phospholipids (PL) DHA is abundant in the brain. DHA and EPA are components of different PL in synaptic cell membranes. Involved in membrane fluidity and function [48, 103]. DHA and EPA: oily fish.
PL: soya, rapeseed, sunflower, eggs, milk.
Choline Component of PL. Precursor of neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Modulates neuronal membrane formation. Meat, dairy products, grains, eggs and fish.
Uridine Constituent of nucleotides, nucleic acids, precursor of brain phosphatidylcholine in membranes [104, 105]. Ribonucleic acid form in foods not bioavailable. As uridine monophosphate in human milk. De-novo synthesis to meet requirements.
Cholesterol Essential component of neuronal membranes [25], involved in signalling, synaptic plasticity, learning and memory [106]. Also converted to bioactive oxysterols and vitamin D [107] Eggs and fat containing foods.
Vitamin D Neuro-steroid, modulates neurotransmission. Helps maintain calcium balance and signalling. Contributes to synaptic plasticity [82, 83]. Limited dietary sources; mainly oily fish, egg, fortified foods.
Vitamins A, C and E, selenium, zinc Critical role as antioxidants in the brain.
Zinc also has a role as a neurosecretory product in the synaptic vesicles of specific neurons [108].
Vitamin A: offal, dairy products, eggs, carrots and dark green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin C: fruits and vegetables
Vitamin E: nuts, seeds, oily fish, egg yolk and whole grain cereals.
Selenium: meat, fish, legumes, grains (variable content in soil).
Zinc: meat, legumes, eggs, fish, grains.
Calcium Important intra-cellular brain messenger [109] required for synaptic plasticity and secretion of neurotransmitters. Dairy products.
Magnesium Co-factor in multiple enzyme reactions and regulates N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors. Role in release of neuropeptides in the brain [110]. Nuts, whole grains, fish, seafood, several vegetables.
Iron Important in oxygen transport for optimal cognitive function. Meat, fish, cereals, legumes, nuts, egg yolks, some vegetables, potatoes and fortified foods.
Vitamins B6, B12 and folate Vitamin B6: neurotransmitter synthesis.
Vitamin B12 and folate: important for oxygen transport for optimal cognitive function. Vitamin B12 is involved in myelin synthesis.
Vitamin B6: grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, potatoes, meat and fish.
Vitamin B12: meat (especially offal), fish, dairy products, eggs.
Folate: dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, fruits and fortified cereals.
Iodine Constituent of thyroid hormones. Important in foetal brain development. Fish, dairy products, eggs and iodized salt.