Effects of nutritional interventions on BDNF concentrations in humans: a systematic review

E. Gravesteijn, R.P. Mensink, J. Plat*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review


Objectives: Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) plays an essential role in brain and metabolic health. The fact that higher concentrations are associated with improved cognitive performance has resulted in numerous intervention trials that aim at elevating BDNF levels. This systematic review provides an overview of the relation between various nutritional factors and BDNF concentrations in controlled human intervention studies. Methods: A systematic search in May 2020 identified 48 articles that examined the effects of dietary patterns or foods (n = 3), diets based on energy intake (n = 7), vitamins and minerals (n = 7), polyphenols (n = 11), long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n = 5), probiotics (n = 8), and miscellaneous food supplements (n = 7). Results: In particular, studies with dietary patterns or foods showed increased peripheral BDNF concentrations. There are also strong indications that polyphenols tend to have a positive effect on BDNF concentrations. Four of the 11 included studies with a polyphenol intervention showed a significant increase in BDNF concentrations, one study showed an increase but this was not statistically analyzed, and two studies showed a trend to an increase. Discussion: The two polyphenol classes, phenolic acids, and other phenolic compounds were responsible for the significant effects. No clear effect was found for the other dietary factors, which might also be related to whether serum or plasma was used for BDNF analysis. More work is needed to understand the relation between peripheral and central BDNF concentrations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1425-1436
Number of pages12
JournalNutritional neuroscience
Issue number7
Early online date10 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2022


  • brain-derived neurotrophic factor
  • diet
  • food supplements
  • foods
  • human interventions
  • long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • polyphenols
  • probiotics
  • sytematic review
  • vitamins and minerals


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