Folic acid is essential for pregnant women to combat neural tube defects in the brains of their children, but so are
other nutrients like choline,
betaine, and methionine.
"Periconceptional intake of folic acid prevents some neural tube defects (NTDs). Other nutrients may also contribute to NTD etiologies; a likely candidate is choline," said G.M. Shaw and associates at the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation. "Similar to folic acid, choline is involved in one-carbon metabolism for methylation of homocysteine to methionine."
Shaw and team "investigated whether maternal periconceptional dietary intakes of choline and its metabolite betaine influence NTD risk."
They obtained their data "from a case-control study of fetuses and infants with NTDs among 1989-1991 California births. In-person interviews were conducted with mothers of 424 NTD cases and with mothers of 440 non-malformed controls. A standard 100-item food frequency questionnaire was used to assess nutrient intake," the scientists said.
Their analysis revealed that "[d]ietary intakes of choline were associated with reduced NTD risks. Controlling for intake of supplemental folic acid, dietary folate, dietary methionine, and other covariates did not substantially influence risk estimates for choline."
Additionally, Shaw and colleagues reported, "NTD risk estimates were lowest for women whose diets were rich in choline, betaine, and methionine. That is, for women whose intake was above the 75th percentile compared with below the 25th percentile for all three nutrients, the odds ratio was 0.17
"Study findings for dietary components other than folic acid offer additional clues about the complex etiologies of NTDs," they concluded.
Shaw and colleagues published their study in the American Journal of Epidemiology (Periconceptional dietary intake of choline and betaine and neural tube defects in offspring. Am J Epidemiol, 2004;160(2):102-109).
Source: March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, California Birth Defects Monitoring Program, 1917 5th Street.,