Choline in pregnancy boosts kids’ attention

Choline in pregnancy boosts kids' attention
Written by Publishing Team

Getting enough choline during pregnancy is important for you and your baby, and we now know that it can benefit your child in the long run as well. New study finds cognitive benefits in kids whose moms consumed higher levels of choline during pregnancy.

Specifically, 7-year-olds did better at difficult tasks that required sustained attention when their mothers took in twice the recommended amount of choline during pregnancy, according to a study in Canada. Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant women consume 450 mg per day and nursing mothers 550 mg per day, respectively, according to an ACOG spokesperson.

Sounds simple, right? But most prenatal vitamins do not contain choline at all, or in sufficient amounts.

“Choline is bulky [like calcium], and so it’s hard to add to a prenatal… the pill would be too gigantic to swallow, ”said Motherly Taylor C. Wallace, PhD, assistant professor at George Mason University.

Research into the importance of choline has only just started to “explode” over the past five to seven years, adds Dr. Wallace.

Current recommendations require updating

The study authors say the recommended intake does not meet the needs of babies as they develop in utero.

“Our results suggest population-wide benefits of adding choline to a standard prenatal vitamin regimen,” said Barbara Strupp, PhD, professor at Cornell University and co-lead author of the study, in a press release.

ACOG has not been involved in any effort to promote the inclusion of choline in prenatal vitamins and does not have an official position on the inclusion of choline in prenatal vitamins, the spokesperson said. Kindergarten.

Food sources of choline

You can get choline from egg yolks, fish, poultry, lean red meat, legumes, nuts, and cruciferous vegetables. But it’s not in most prenatal vitamins, and over 90% of pregnant women get less than the recommended amount, according to the authors.

Scientists have studied choline for decades and have shown that consuming large amounts during pregnancy produces long-term cognitive benefits for offspring. It can help with attention and memory, and may protect against cognitive adversities caused by everything from prenatal stress and autism to alcohol exposure and fetal epilepsy, the researchers noted. .

Choline in pregnancy boosts cognition in children

In the study, the women ate a diet prepared with a specified amount of choline throughout their third trimester. Half consumed 480 mg of choline per day and the other half consumed a total intake of 930 mg of choline per day. Their children (20 of them) were tested at the age of 7.

Children of mothers who took 480 mg / day showed decreased accuracy in sustained attention from start to finish of a task. Those in the 930 mg / day group maintained a high level of precision throughout the task.

The findings – the first to follow the results of choline in school-aged children – support a previous study that reported benefits in infancy, and another report that touted increased intake in pregnant women. Wallace noted that more than 40 studies in rodents have shown lasting effects of choline when mothers take it.

“By showing that the beneficial effects of prenatal supplementation last through childhood, these results illustrate the role of prenatal choline in programming the course of cognitive development in children”, Richard Canfield, PhD, research associate principal at Cornell who was involved in the research, said in a statement.

“And because the ability to maintain attention in difficult situations is essential to nearly all areas of cognitive performance, the cumulative impact of improved sustained attention is likely to be substantial,” adds the Dr Canfield.

Sharon Palmer, a dietitian-nutritionist from California, thinks more research on choline is needed. While choline is beneficial in many ways, some research shows that too much could increase our risk for heart disease.

“I recommend getting the recommended amount and not going over it until we know more about this balance in our diet,” notes Palmer.

Take a second look at your prenatal period

The study is a good reminder to dive deep into choosing a prenatal. And talk to your doctor about the supplements.

Wallace notes that choline isn’t the only nutrient that prenatal vitamins often don’t get enough of.

Magnesium and calcium are also too bulky for prenatals, but “very essential nutrients for both mother and infant,” says Dr. Wallace.

“Magnesium is involved in over 600 enzymatic reactions in the body and both nutrients are under-consumed compared to the amounts recommended by many women,” he adds.

If you’re worried that you’re not getting enough of a specific nutrient from your prenatal vitamin or diet, talk to your doctor, dietitian, or nutritionist about how to safely maximize intake during pregnancy.

Featured Experts

Sharon Palmer, RDN, MSFS, The Plant-Powered Dietitian, California Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
Taylor C. Wallace, PhD, Assistant Professor at George Mason University


Bell CC, Aujla J (2016) Prenatal vitamins deficient in the recommended intake of choline for pregnant women. J Fam Med Dis Previous 2: 048. doi: 10.23937 / 2469-5793 / 1510048

Bahnfleth, CL, Strupp, BJ, Caudill, MA, Canfield, RL. Prenatal choline supplementation improves sustained attention in the child: a 7-year follow-up of a randomized controlled feeding trial. FASEB J. 2022; 36: e22054. doi: 10.1096 / fj.202101217R

Caudill MA, Strupp BJ, Muscalu L, Nevins JEH, Canfield RL. Maternal Choline Supplementation in the Third Trimester of Pregnancy Improves Infant Information Processing Speed: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Controlled Feeding Study. The FASEB Journal. 2018. 32: 2172-2180. doi: 10.1096 / fj.201700692RR

Choline during pregnancy has an impact on the sustained attention of children. January 3, 2022.

Choline: Information Sheet for Healthcare Professionals. National Institutes for Health Office of Dietary Supplements. March 29, 2021

Korsmo HW, Jiang X, Caudill MA. Choline: Exploring the growing science on its benefits for moms and babies. Nutrients. 2019; 11 (8): 1823. doi: 10.3390 / nu11081823

Schwarzenberg SJ, Georgieff MK; NUTRITION COMMITTEE. Advocacy for improved nutrition in the first 1000 days to support child development and adult health. Pediatrics. 2018 Feb; 141 (2): e20173716. doi: 10.1542 / peds.2017-3716

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