Recently in General Baby Health Category

May 9, 2013

Another Person's experience with Pregnancy Choline

filed under: General Baby Health Personal Experience
I received the following email recently from a reader of this blog. I thought I'd share it since it cover's another family's experience with choline, and he's studied under the leaders in choline research.:

"I am a former student of Tina Williams and Warren Meck at Duke University and Steve Zeisel [University of North Carolina] was on my dissertation committee.  I ran across your website while looking for choline dosage recommendations during pregnancy.

When my wife was pregnant with our first child, I recommended lots of eggs and peanut butter. I also had my wife supplement with lecithin initially until we switched to choline bitartate. In the end she was getting 1.5 grams of choline a day, give or take. She kept this up (minus the peanut butter) through 1 year of breast feeding.

After 1 year, I did not supplement our son's diet with choline but a lot of our personal experience matches up with you describe: Full-term (he was induced against my better judgement); more alert; fast to become a good sleeper; low stress/anxiety response; fast to learn to walk (10 months); very good long-term memory (he can spontaneously remember things from 2 years ago at 4 years old).

We are now expecting our second child and the new research from Karen Stevens inspired me to see what was out there, and hence your blog.  Thanks for the good compilation of information. I think I will try for a much higher level of choline this time as well as more post-natal choline."

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.


May 12, 2012

Optimizing your Pregnancy for the Lifelong Health of the Child

filed under: General Baby Health
Following is a group of pregnancy science news summary PDF documents that I've created that I thought I'd share to help anyone planning a pregnancy.  All the documents are Password Protected with the password "choline".

Prenatal Choline is just one (significant) part of what I believe you need to do to have a healthy pregnancy; there are many other things you need to consider and plan for.  In addition to the research I've done into choline I did a lot of research on the other areas of science that help you optimize the health of your child.  

This is an area that is extremely important because I believe that the research is showing that the potential positive impact you can have during the nine months of pregnancy (as well as the year prior) is actually significantly greater than the impact you can have the rest of your child's lifespan - so the time and effort you spend planning your pregnancy is going to pay off big, and it makes the rest of your child's life likely to be much easier than if you didn't.  

If you find the choline research interesting - then you'll probably find this other information of interest.  What I've done here is created a group of documents in which I've pulled together all this pregnancy science news that I found interesting.  This was done over a 3 or 4 year period - and you'll see that some of the information actually contradicts each other.  I have not gone through and edited it to remove the contradictory news/research items.  This was created for my own use - I'm just sharing it in the the hope that some other people can benefit from it - and make the world a healthier place for future generations.  You might share it with anyone you think might benefit.  I tend to think that this type of research (the latest academic research news) is of particular value because most information takes many years to get into popular books that people read prior to, or during pregnancy - so you're effectively having a children based on very old information if thats all you rely upon.  

Of course - this is mostly just covering new research - and if anyone has been involved with science for a while, you know that one research paper doesn't really tell you that much - so take this information with a grain of salt, especially when its a story based on just one research paper.  That said, its helpful to understand where the science around this particular area (for example, vitamin D) has been trending for the past few years - to get a better perspective on what risks you might be taking if you increase the levels of vitamin D during pregnancy above what is currently included in a single standard prenatal vitamin. 

Here is a sample list of the types of stories I've accumulated in this list of readings that I've pulled together as part of my pre-pregnancy planning:

Women who start prenatal vitamins early are less likely to have children with autism - Women who do not take them early are nearly twice as likely to have children with autism.

Folic acid intake one year prior to pregnancy may also reduce premature births - The risk of having a premature baby may be halved if women take folic acid supplements for at least one year before conception, suggests new data.

New Research Shows Why Every Week of Pregnancy Counts

Research on early births could hold clues to disorders like autism and cerebral palsy.

Stress  even before pregnancy impacts children to be...

Prenatal exposure triggers a taste for alcohol in children ...

Moms Who Eat High-Fat Diet Before, During Pregnancy 'Program' Babies to Be Fat, at Risk

If expectant mums put on the pounds, so do the kids

Shaky Amount of Iodine in U.S. Salt

Can Heavier Babies Expect Better Mental Health?

Broccoli Sprouts Eaten During Pregnancy May Provide Children with Life-Long Protection 

Against Heart Disease.

Are Fish-Eaters Smarter than Fish Oil Pill-Poppers?

Eating Eggs During Pregnancy Protects Mom's Offspring from Cancer

Should Prenatal Care Be Extended to Dads?

Here are the documents with the full stories. Remember, the password is "choline"

Pregnancy 2010 and 2011 News.pdf

A.pregnancy.and.brain development.2008.pdf

Pregnancy General News 2008.part.1.pdf

Pregnancy General News 2008.Part_2.pdf


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May 2, 2012

The Phenotype of the High Prenatal Choline Child

filed under: Choline Benefits General Baby Health Personal Experience
Biologists tend to describe the phenotype of an organism as the uniquely identifiable characteristics or behaviors that you can see or measure.

One of the topics that has come up among the parents that have done high prenatal choline supplementation for their kids is what exactly all the observable changes are to our children compared to non high-choline supplemented kids.  (Note:  by "High prenatal choline supplementation - I'm talking between 1.5 grams a day and 3. 5 grams/day (or higher) during pregnancy).

Here is a list that I believe is representative of the phenotypical changes we see in the high choline kids:

1.       Possibly a Higher Probability of Full Term Babies - our kids were both 41 weeks at birth (and so were virtually all our friends who also used choline) - and while there are many possible factors that might result in preterm birth - I suspect that good nutrition,  and low stress (or low stress /low cortisol) experienced by the fetus is going to result in a higher probability of being full term.  I've see research that if a mother-to-be takes folate / folic acid a year prior to conception - the rate of preterm birth is lower by 69% - and this suggests that Vitamin B like substances (like Choline) may have a roll in reducing risk of pre-term birth.  Since its now known that less than full term babies have a much higher rate of a large number of neurodevelopmental and other issues - I think that high choline kids might be benefiting from the choline in many different ways. 

2.    More alert and awake - this is especially noticeable during the first 3 months when many children have a tendency to be less alert.

3.    Fast to become full-night sleepers / Good Sleepers.  Our children started sleeping through the night (i.e. 6 to 8 hours sleep) at around 10 weeks or so.  I think that higher choline kids may (because the are less stressed) sleep better and sleep longer, earlier than regular kids who may be more sensitive and therefore wake up more frequently.

4.    Faster learning - of languages, etc. - At our first child's 2 year checkup the pediatrician said (unprompted by us) that she was amazed at the verbal and cognitive development, and as our child chatted in full sentences during the exam. She sees hundreds of kids, and has been a pediatrician in one of the best parts of our city for over 15 years, and said it was rare to see a child so advanced at that age.  Additionally, the 3 to 4 year old high choline kids I know speak two languages fluently, with vocabularies of several thousand words in each language. The children are also beginning to read at this age.

5.   Low Stress Response to Higher Stress Situations - In talking with other parents - I think that one common feature our children share is that some common higher-stress situations are not perceived as higher stress by our children.  The frequent vaccination shots when your child is very young are not so big a deal with high choline kids.  Our kids hardly cry at all, or perhaps at most for 5 or 10 seconds of light crying after a vaccination shot.  As you wait in the pediatrician's waiting room - you hear many kids screaming very loudly and persistently for a long time.  Our kids seem to view these experiences with much less concern.

6.   Faster Motor Skill Acquisition - most of our kids seem to start walking around age 9 months. (and by walking I mean able to walk across a 12 foot room without falling down).  Here is a video of our first child walking at about 9 and 1/2 months:

7.       Very good long term memory (kids recall stories from when they were much younger unprompted, and in great detail).

8.       Naturally Low anxiety (our children never have really shown any stranger anxiety), and low fear (our children -- both boys and girls -- love handling snakes, bugs and crabs and other new things) but fear can be learned very quickly if exposed to a fearful situation. For example, one of the children's grandparents showed our daughter the Disney movie "Dumbo" and our daughter became afraid of the dark so we had to start leaving the hallway light on for about a 10 months.  I've discovered that older Disney movies have many terrifying scenes for young children  (think Dumbo's mother being taken away from her children, Bambi's mother's death, etc.) so we avoid them now.

9.       Choline-Induced reduction in sleep requirements  (for children between the ages of 4 months to about 2 years) - in a dose-dependent manner.  At age 4 months  our first child began eating egg yolks (from boiled eggs) crushed and mixed with yogurt - and we found pretty consistent results. One egg yolk generally resulted in a skipped nap (when two naps was typical) - and two egg yolks resulted in all the naps being skipped that day - and the child would be alert and full of energy until late in the evening (meanwhile all the other kids would be melting down and headed off to bed).

One parent I talked seems to think that high choline kids are more developmentally "finished" when they are born (because choline is important for cell division and cell membranes), but I am not sure of that, and I wouldn't be surprised at all if good nutrition generally resulted in more "finished" or completely developed looking kids, and if you're supplementing with choline you're probably already more conscious about prenatal nutrition than the average parent - so that may be what is driving this.

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April 30, 2012

Choline Helps Mitigate Impact of Stress During Pregnancy - Why thats Important

filed under: Choline Benefits General Baby Health
A lot of people - especially working professional women - may not know the negative impact on the child of stress during pregnancy.  Below is a good interview with an expert on this topic - and why I suspect all working women (and also low income women) would benefit from high levels of choline supplementation during pregnancy:

Stress in pregnancy 'lowers a child's IQ.
Source: Daily Mail, UK
Date: 24/11/2005

Fiona MacRae, in the Daily Mail, reports on research at Imperial College London, which has revealed that pregnant women who are stressed double the risk of their babies having lower than average IQs. Professor Vivette Glover, who conducted the study, followed the progress of almost 70 women and their children. The children of women who were believed to have suffered greater levels of stress during pregnancy scored around 90 in subsequent tests, compared to an average score of 100 for children whose mothers were deemed to have experienced less stress during pregnancy.

In interview with Vivette Glover, perinatal psychobiologist, Imperial College, England

Q: How and why do you think that the stress experienced by mothers during pregnancy can affect the unborn child?

A: We found two possible mechanisms by which maternal stress during pregnancy could affect the development of the baby. One is if the mother is very anxious or stressed while she's pregnant, there's reduced blood flow to the baby through the uterine arteries, the main source of blood and nutrition for the baby, and this could explain why the baby doesn't grow as well and also set up a secondary stress response in the fetus. Second, we have shown that if the mother has high levels of cortisol, the main stress hormone, so does the fetus. It seems that enough cortisol crosses the placenta from the mother to the fetus to actually affect fetal levels. So if the mother is stressed, her cortisol goes up, so does the cortisol level in the fetus. This in turn could well affect the development of the brain and the future stress responses of the baby.

Q: In what ways could a mother's cortisol levels affect the baby?

A: We're realising now that the development of the brain is sensitive to the hormones that are around it, and particularly cortisol, just as it is to alcohol, smoking or other drugs. And that the cortisol level that the fetus experiences will set a number of brain receptors to cortisol and this in turn will set later responses. It's very important that we learn to understand what's the optimal development here because it's much easier to change things while they're being made than to try and change them later. If, for example, it turns out that high levels of maternal stress--or even different methods of delivery, really have adverse affects on the development of the baby's brain, it's important to understand more about this and address it at this period, than have children with behavioral problems more difficult to resolve later.

Q: What effect does different methods of delivery have on a newborn's stress response?

A: The most stressful thing that happens to any baby is being born, compared to anything else that goes on. We're very concerned about the experience of the mother during pregnancy and her pain and a lot's done for the mother but very little attention is paid to the baby. But we now know from looking at cortisol levels in the umbilical cord immediately after birth that birth is very distressful for the baby and different types of delivery induce different levels of stress. We've found that babies born by elective cesarean had the lowest response. Those born by normal vaginal birth had an intermediate response. And those born by assisted delivery, such as with forceps or suction, had the biggest response. We then looked at eight-week-old babies who'd been born by these different methods and looked at their stress responses to a vaccination by measuring saliva cortisol. This showed that, at least for the first eight weeks, delivery method affects the behavior, the stress response of the baby. And it may well have a much more long-term effect, so that's the next thing we need to study.

But we can't assume that the least stressful delivery is the best for the child. I think it's likely that a normal vaginal delivery is actually best. Because we know that babies born by elective caesarean, for example, don't breathe so well just after they're born. It's likely that the amount of stress associated with a normal vaginal delivery does get the baby best adjusted to the outside world. But what I think we can be concerned about is that some assisted deliveries put a very high level of stress on the baby and this may be damaging.

What are you looking at with your current research?

A: Well all the evidence we have so far suggests that the very early period is important for the long-term stress responses. But we need much more evidence to actually pinpoint what is exactly going on; when during pregnancy does stress matter, what degree of stress becomes harmful and so on. Our current research is to try and find out more about the long term affects of stress in pregnancy on the behavior of a child, and we're using about ten thousand women who've been followed through pregnancy to actually determine properly whether pre-natal stress as opposed to post-natal does have an effect on the child. We also intend to follow up children who've been born by different methods up to the age of one or two and see how long the different types of delivery actually affect their stress responses. We know it affects up to eight weeks, but does it carry on for one year, two years or for life?

Q: Many women feel the need to return to work as soon as possible after having a baby, even working at home. What effects might the stress of juggling work and early motherhood have?

A: We don't know enough in terms of our changing lifestyles and their effect on the future generation. But I think we do need to do a lot of research to actually find out what our changing lifestyles are doing to us and particularly to our children. It's clear that from birth, babies are very sensitive to their mother's feelings. If the mother is stressed or depressed, the baby picks up on it, can cry more, [and] you get a bad interaction. We know that if mothers are depressed in the very early weeks or months, this often has an effect on the interaction with the child. And this in turn has long term harmful effects on the development of the child. The children have more behavioral problems, more cognitive problems, the boys may have a lower IQ. So the very early mother-baby interaction is very important for the later development of the child. And a very stressed mother can interfere with this. Alternatively, the good news is that very good mothering early on can actually help to undo some of the possible damage that might have been caused during the fetal period. So that the whole system is very plastic both for benefit and harm in this very early period.

I think that all our research is making us more aware that very early mothering is absolutely crucial. And that perhaps women should take a bit of time off work, certainly in the early months, to make sure that they get a good relationship going with their baby. I think that this has implications for society as a whole and governments, that we need to give women time to establish the relationship with their child, help them to be in as good an emotional state as possible, while they have a new baby. And then go back to work later. I think that politicians maybe have a role to play here, that they ought to be aware that for the sake of the emotional health of future generations, encouraging mothering and parenting is very important.