Study – Increased Cognitive Skills In Kids Whose Mothers Who Consumed 2X The DRA Of Choline During Pregnancy

A new study suggests that moms-to-be may not be consuming enough choline during pregnancy. Found in egg yolks, lean red meat, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts, and cruciferous vegetables, this nutrient is absent from most prenatal vitamins.  Currently, it is recommended that pregnant women take 450 mg/day, but it is estimated that 90% of expectant mothers consume less.

Study - Increased Cognitive Skills In Kids Whose Mothers Who Consumed 2X The DRA Of Choline During Pregnancy

Researchers from Cornell believe the daily recommended amount should be doubled in order to fully meet the needs of the fetal brain. 

Their study has found that seven-year-old children performed better cognitively if their mothers consumed twice the recommended amount of choline during their pregnancy.

Study - Increased Cognitive Skills In Kids Whose Mothers Who Consumed 2X The DRA Of Choline During Pregnancy

They compared these children with those whose mothers had consumed the recommended amount of choline.

“Our findings suggest population-wide benefits of adding choline to a standard prenatal vitamin regimen,” said Barbara Strupp, professor in the Division of Nutritional Sciences (DNS) and Department of Psychology, and co-senior author of the study, “Prenatal Choline Supplementation Improves Child Sustained Attention: A Seven-Year Follow-Up of a Randomized Controlled Feeding Trial,” published Dec. 28 in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

Through research using rodent models researchers have found that adding extra choline to the maternal diet produces long-term cognitive benefits for the offspring. In addition to improving offspring’s attention and memory throughout life, maternal choline supplementation in rodents has proven to be neuroprotective for the offspring by mitigating the cognitive adversities caused by prenatal stress, fetal alcohol exposure, autism, epilepsy, Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease.

In the Cornell study, one-half of the women consumed 480 mg choline per day, which slightly exceeded the recommended adequate intake (AI) level. The other half consumed a total intake of 930 mg choline per day, approximately double the AI level.

When tested at 7 years of age, the children of women in the 480 mg/day group showed a decline in accuracy from the beginning to the end of a sustained attention task, while those from the 930 mg/day group maintained a high level of accuracy throughout the task. These findings echo the study results of the rodent research.

“By demonstrating that maternal choline supplementation in humans produces offspring attentional benefits that are similar to those seen in animals,” Strupp said, “our findings suggest that the full range of cognitive and neuroprotective benefits demonstrated in rodents may also be seen in humans.”

Previously a study found that maternal choline supplementation improved information processing speed throughout the first year of life in these same children.

Following the research group into childhood is a new area for the researchers but they were pleased the potential benefits of the choline continued to be seen.

“By showing that the beneficial effects of prenatal supplementation endure into childhood, these findings illustrate a role for prenatal choline in programming the course of child cognitive development,” Canfield said. “And because the ability to sustain attention in challenging situations is critical to nearly all areas of cognitive performance, the cumulative impact of improving sustained attention is likely to be substantial.”


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Lisa Arneill

Mom of 2 boys and founder of and World Traveled Family. When I'm not running around after my boys, I'm looking for our next vacation spot!

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