January 2013 Archives

January 15, 2013

Study Indicates that Moderate Prenatal Choline Doesn't Help Children's Brains

filed under: Prenatal Choline Research Study

I communicated by email with the study PI (Primary Investigator) Steven Zeisel on this new study.  He's been pretty vocal in the past with his students (his students have told me), recommending 1.5 grams+ per day of choline for human consumption during pregancy.  

In this study he said his IRB would only allow the 750 mg dosing - so I guess he was hoping for it to be successful even at that lower level. Ultimately he didn't have a choice - since he couldn't proceed without his IRB's approval.

Unfortunately it was too low to see the beneficial impact on the brain.  Now that another study (see study identified in posting below) has come out with a dosing of over 5 grams per day I hope that his IRB allows a higher dosing level.


Taking approximately 800 mg a day of choline during pregnancy does not improve babies' language and memory skills, according to a new study.

The results contrast with earlier studies in animals showing that a choline boost in utero improves rodents' performance on memory tasks. 

Earlier studies have found that pregnant women with very low levels of choline in their diet have a higher chance of delivering a baby with a birth defect. And adults who eat a choline-rich diet perform better on memory tests 

To see if adding extra choline during pregnancy can offer any benefits to babies, Zeisel and his colleagues asked 99 pregnant women to take six pills every day, beginning when they were 18 weeks pregnant and continuing until three months after the baby was born.

Fifty of the moms received fake pills containing corn oil, while 49 received pills with 833 milligrams (mg) of phosphatidylcholine, a form of choline.

The phosphatidylcholine pills added up to 750 mg of choline each day, the equivalent of 170 percent of the recommended level for pregnant women and 140 percent of the recommended daily amount for breastfeeding moms.

When the children were 10 and 12 months old, Zeisel's team gave them a battery of tests to measure short and long term memory, language skills and general development.

There were no differences between the two groups on any of the tests, the team reports in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Marie Caudill, a professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, who was not involved in the current research, said the study was well conducted, but she offered a number of reasons that might explain the discrepancy between the animal studies and the current findings.

One possibility is that the babies were not tracked long enough to see any differences in their abilities.

"The animal studies demonstrated (that) supplementing the maternal diet with extra choline during pregnancy resulted in lasting beneficial effects on cognitive functioning in the adult offspring and prevented age-related cognitive decline," Caudill told Reuters Health by email.

Additionally, the type of choline used - phosphatidylcholine - might be less effective than choline itself. (Zeisel's group chose not to use choline because it can result in a fishy body odor.)

In addition, the tests may not be "sufficiently challenging," Caudill added.

Zeisel agreed that perhaps as children age and start to perform more complex mental processing, it might be easier to measure if a child has a deficit or a strength.


January 15, 2013

High Prenatal Choline May Prevent Schizophrenia / Mental Illness in Offspring

filed under: General Baby Health Prenatal Choline Research Study

This new study shows the potential for prenatal choline to significantly reduce the risk of mental illness in children. While this one study only focuses on schizophrenia, stress hormones during pregnancy (which choline reduces significantly) increases risk of all mental illness - so this approach likely will reduce the incidences of all mental illnesses. This is really big news. 

Notice also the dosing in this study below - 3.6 grams in the morning, and 2.7 grams in the evening. Now that this study has come out, I would take supplements at this level.


University of Colorado researchers study choline in infants

AURORA, Colo. (Jan. 15, 2013) -- Choline, an essential nutrient similar to the B vitamin and found in foods such as liver, muscle meats, fish, nuts and eggs, when given as a dietary supplement in the last two trimesters of pregnancy and in early infancy, is showing a lower rate of physiological schizophrenic risk factors in infants 33 days old. The study breaks new ground both in its potentially therapeutic findings and in its strategy to target markers of schizophrenia long before the illness itself actually appears. Choline is also being studied for potential benefits in liver disease, including chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis, depression, memory loss, Alzheimer's disease and dementia, and certain types of seizures.

Robert Freedman, MD, professor and chairman of the Department of Psychiatry, University of Colorado School of Medicine and one of the study's authors and Editor of The American Journal of Psychiatry, points out, "Genes associated with schizophrenia are common, so prevention has to be applied to the entire population, and it has to be safe. Basic research indicates that choline supplementation during pregnancy facilitates cognitive functioning in offspring. Our finding that it ameliorates some of the pathophysiology associated with risk for schizophrenia now requires longer-term follow-up to assess whether it decreases risk for the later development of illness as well."

Normally, the brain responds fully to an initial clicking sound but inhibits its response to a second click that follows immediately. In schizophrenia patients, deficient inhibition is common and is related to poor sensory filtering and familial transmission of schizophrenia risk. Since schizophrenia does not usually appear until adolescence, this trait--measurable in infancy--was chosen to represent the illness.

Half the healthy pregnant women in this study took 3,600 milligrams of phosphatidylcholine each morning and 2,700 milligrams each evening; the other half took placebo. After delivery, their infants received 100 milligrams of phosphatidylcholine per day or placebo. Eighty-six percent of infants exposed to pre- and postnatal choline supplementation, compared to 43% of unexposed infants, inhibited the response to repeated sounds, as measured with EEG sensors placed on the baby's head during sleep.


The study will be published online by The American Journal of Psychiatry (AJP) at AJP in Advance, its online-ahead-of-print website. The research was funded by the Institute for Children's Mental Disorders, the Anschutz Family Foundation, and the National Institute of Mental Health.