Prenatal supplement helps the body use key nutrients for fetal brain development more efficiently

A recent study shows that taking 500 milligrams of the nutrient choline helps the body more efficiently metabolize an omega 3 fatty acid that is crucial for fetal brain development, cognition and vision.

Choline helps the body use an essential nutrient during a baby’s development

The nutrient choline has already been shown to have long-term benefits for children whose mothers consume it throughout pregnancy. However, a recent study has shown that it can also help the body use an omega 3 fatty acid more efficiently.[{” attribute=””>acid that is crucial for the fetal brain, cognition, and eyesight development.

The research was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on May 16th, 2022.

The results demonstrate that choline supplementation helps cellular metabolism more effectively manage and release the omega 3 fatty acid, DHA, from a pregnant woman’s liver. DHA, once in the circulation, can reach all tissues, including the placenta.

“During pregnancy, mom is primed to get nutrients out of the liver and make them available to the baby, so by supplementing choline and DHA [together], we increase the bioavailability of DHA,” said lead author Marie Caudill, professor of nutritional science at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Kevin Klatt, Ph.D. ’18, a research scientist and registered dietitian at the University of California, Berkeley, is the first author of the article.

These forms of nutrient-nutrient interactions are not new, according to Caudill. In the intestines, for example, vitamin D improves calcium absorption while vitamin C increases iron availability.

Caudill and colleagues at Cornell also demonstrated that high maternal choline intake reduces infant stress response, improves information processing, and has long-term benefits for sustained attention (as demonstrated by a study that followed children up to age 7), and that choline reduces a factor that contributes to preeclampsia in pregnant women.

In this study, a group of 30 women in weeks 12 to 16 of pregnancy were randomly divided into two groups: one received 500 milligrams of choline per day, plus 50 milligrams per day of deuterium-labeled choline, to that it can be followed through the body. The other group served as a control and received 25 milligrams per day of labeled choline alone. All participants also received a daily supplement of 200 milligrams of DHA, a prenatal vitamin and mineral supplement, and were able to follow their normal diet. Blood and urine were collected after fasting at the start of the experiment for a baseline, then during gestation weeks 20-24 and weeks 28-30. Maternal blood and cord blood were also collected at delivery.

By tracking labeled choline, researchers have identified a chemical reaction in which choline donates small molecules called methyl groups that are added to a molecule called phosphatidylethanolamine. Through a biological pathway, phosphatidylethanolamine is converted into a new choline-containing molecule, phosphatidylcholine, which is enriched with DHA. In this form, DHA is transferred from the liver to the mother’s bloodstream, where it is available for use in the tissues.

Future work will help determine if choline’s ability to improve DHA bioavailability contributes to some of the benefits seen when pregnant women take a choline supplement.

“Our results suggest that choline supplementation may help achieve higher DHA status with lower DHA doses during pregnancy,” Klatt said. “Our data indicate that choline intake is another important determinant of the amount of dietary DHA that transforms into tissues during pregnancy.”

Co-authors include researchers from Baylor College of Medicine; the University of California, Berkeley; Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai, Thailand; OmegaQuant Analytics in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; the University of British Columbia in Vancouver; Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca; and the University of Texas, Austin.

The study was funded by the Balchem ​​Corporation; the Advanced Technology Center at the Cornell Institute of Biotechnology through the New York State Division of Science, Technology, and Innovation; and the United States Department of Agriculture. Funding sources played no role in study design, data interpretation, or publication of results.

Reference: “Prenatal Choline Supplementation Improves Biomarkers of Maternal Docosahexaenoic Acid Status in Pregnant Participants Consuming Supplemental DHA: A Randomized Controlled Trial” by Kevin C Klatt, Melissa Q McDougall, Olga V Malysheva, Siraphat Taesuwan, Aura (Alex ) P Loinard-González, Julie EH Nevins, Kara Beckman, Ruchika Bhawal, Elizabeth Anderson, Sheng Zhang, Erica Bender, Kristina H Jackson, D Janette King, Roger A Dyer, Srisatish Devapatla, Ramesh Vidavalur, J Thomas Brenna and Marie A Caudill , May 16, 2022, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
DOI: 10.1093/ajcn/nqac147

Patricia J. Callender