April 2010 Archives

April 9, 2010

Choline during Pregnancy and Later Sensitivity of Child

filed under: Choline Benefits Choline Risks Personal Experience
I've read quite a bit of the research on how Choline and other B-vitamins (when taken during pregnancy) add methyl groups to the child's DNA - allowing over expression of some genes (thus the better memory), and reducing expression of other genes.

Some researchers I've talked to have seen in their research that when they subject pregnant rodents (mice and rat models that are predisposed to what seem to be schizophrenia and autism ) to moderate stress over multiple generations - there are very high rates of disease and disorders.  When they feed these same strains of mice and rats Choline during the pregnancy - they eliminate this risk.

I've also read about research stress demethylates genes (removes methyl groups) - and stress and poor nutrition during pregnancy could result in 5% or higher rates of demethylation - which, I hear, is a huge impact on the mammal's (mice or humans) genes.  Research I've read also suggests that rates of anxiety and fear significantly increase in mammals (animals and humans) that have experienced high rates of stress during pregnancy and during early life.  In fact I've also read that early life stresses (poverty, stressful family environment, etc.) greatly increases the risk of PTSD later in life (a fact that has been born out in studies of army vets, I believe). 

All of this I find very interesting - because in our own child we see, I believe, the positive impact of high levels of choline during pregnancy.  One of the most visible and common situations I see this in, is if our baby boy (now 17 months) stays up past his normal bedtime - which happens occasionally when we are traveling, or visiting with friends on the weekend for a dinner party.  What I find very interesting - and which I suspect is in part due to the extra choline during pregnancy that my wife took - is that while after a certain time all our friend's children start "melting down" and becoming very sensitive and prone to crying  - our child just keeps on playing and exploring like it is mid-day.  As our child gets more tired - his mood doesn't change much.  We see him start rubbing his eyes a bit - but for the most part you couldn't tell if he had just woken up from a nap, or has been up for 8 hours.  He's still just a happy, playful little boy.  Its interesting because on occasion we've gone to afternoon parties with our group of friends who have young kids - and our child is always the last one standing, sometimes until 10pm at night (his usual bedtime is between 6:30pm and 7:30pm) with no crying, no increased sensitivity - and no problems.  Our other friends have to start putting their kids to bed at 7:30 or so as they start becoming more sensitive and crying more frequently. 

Now - I also suspect that the increase in Choline during pregnancy might have some downside.  One downside I suspect is that these children are less prone to fear - which in many situations might be good - but in which many situations might also be not so good. 

What got me thinking about this recently was when were visiting friends the other day and were sitting at the dinner table. I was sitting on a bench seat with my son beside me and windows immediately behind us.  While I was eating, he turned around - reached as high as he could - and proceeded to climb up on the window using his fingertips on a 1 inch ledge, and his feet on another 1 inch ledge (if you've ever rock-climbed, you'd recognize this as a classic "front-pointing" stance).  He had his little running shoes and was totally happy hanging out hanging by his finger tips and toes.  No problem, no fear.  One side of me thinks "great - he'll be a good rock climber" - but the other side of me knows that a healthy fear is a good thing.  I'm not sure yet what this experience indicates yet - but it bears more monitoring.