Human diet and cognition

Richard J. Stevenson*, John Prescott

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    12 Citations (Scopus)


    Cognition influences what, when and how much we eat, which in turn affects the brain and hence cognition. In this overview, focusing mainly on the human literature, we start by examining cognitive influences on food and eating. This includes food preferences and choices (e.g., effects of learning, advertising, and cultural taboos), food habits relating to when and how much to eat (e.g., the concept of meals, dieting, and hunger strikes), the perception of food (e.g., the influence of appearance, food labels, and conceptions of naturalness), and how food perception is influenced by expertise. We also review how these various influences are disrupted by abnormalities of cognition (e.g., Gourmand syndrome, amnesia, and anorexia nervosa). The second part of the overview focuses on how diet affects cognition. We start by looking at the acute effects of diet, notably the impact of breakfast on cognitive performance in children. This is followed by a review of the effects of extended dietary exposures-years and lifetimes of particular diets. Here we look at the impacts of protein-energy malnourishment and Western-style diets, and their different, but adverse affects on cognition, and the beneficial effects on cognition of breast-feeding and certain dietary practices. We then outline how diet and cooking may have allowed the evolution of the large energy-hungry human brain. This overview serves to illustrate the multiple interactions that exist between cognition and diet, their importance to health and disease, and their impact on thinking about the role of conscious processes in decision making.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)463-475
    Number of pages13
    JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014


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