Study shows benefits of prenatal choline for school-aged children

Ithaca, NY—According to a new study from Cornell University, seven-year-olds performed better on a task that required sustained attention if their mothers consumed twice the recommended amount of choline during their pregnancy.

Research in rodent models has shown that adding supplemental choline to the maternal diet produces long-term cognitive benefits for offspring – in addition to improved attention and memory throughout life, supplementation Maternal choline in rodents alleviated cognitive adversity caused by prenatal stress, fetal alcohol exposure, epilepsy, Down syndrome, and Alzheimer’s disease.

For the current study, all women consumed a diet prepared with a specified amount of choline throughout the third trimester of pregnancy. Half of the women consumed 480 mg per day, slightly exceeding the recommended intake level of 450 mg; the other half consumed 930 mg of choline per day.

Tested at age 7, children of women in the 480mg group showed decreased accuracy from start to finish of a sustained attention task, while those in the 930mg group maintained a high level of accuracy throughout. of the task, in findings paralleling the effects of maternal choline supplementation in rodents.

“By demonstrating that maternal choline supplementation in humans produces attentional benefits in offspring similar to those observed in animals, our results suggest that the full range of cognitive and neuroprotective benefits demonstrated in rodents can also be observed in the ‘man,” said Barbara Strupp, professor. in the Division of Nutritional Sciences (DNS) and Department of Psychology, and co-lead author of the study, “Prenatal Choline Supplementation Improves Child Sustained Attention: A Seven-Year Follow-Up of a Randomized Controlled Feeding Trial” , published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

These results also suggest that the recommended amount of choline does not meet the needs of the fetal brain. Getting enough can be difficult: Although choline is found in common foods, including egg yolks, lean red meat, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts, and cruciferous vegetables, it is missing from most prenatal vitamins and over 90% of pregnant people consume less than the recommended amount.

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“Our results suggest population-wide benefits of adding choline to a standard prenatal vitamin regimen,” Strupp said.

In agreement with her: Richard Canfield, co-lead author of the study, and senior research associate in DNS. “By showing that the beneficial effects of prenatal supplementation persist through childhood, these results illustrate the role of prenatal choline in programming cognitive development in children,” Canfield said. “And because the ability to sustain attention in difficult situations is critical to nearly every domain of cognitive performance, the cumulative impact of improving sustained attention is likely to be substantial.”

Patricia J. Callender