Recently in Prenatal Choline News Category

May 9, 2013

Videos of Researchers talking about Choline and Pregancy

filed under: Prenatal Choline News Prenatal Choline Research Study
Recently it seems doctors / researchers have started using internet video to start getting their messages to the public.  Here are two videos on the topic of pregnancy and choline consumption.  I especially recommend the first one as it features the leading researcher in the field - Steven Zeisel:


April 25, 2012

Latest Research at Cornell on Pregnancy and Choline and impact on Infants

filed under: Choline Benefits Prenatal Choline News
A recent news story from Cornell University:

The Scientist: Prof. Caudill Researches the Effects of Choline on Fetal Development

April 25, 2012

Caudill researches the effects of the essential nutrient choline on fetal development and child growth.

Anyone who has ever held a relative's baby knows there are usually two types: the ones who can be passed around, smiling and giggling, and the ones who scream and cry once separated from their mothers. According to Prof. Marie Caudill, nutritional sciences, the reason for this difference may lie in the placental environment in which the baby developed.

Caudill researches the effects of the essential nutrient choline on fetal development and child growth. She is internationally recognized for her studies with folate and choline and recently presented her research at an international conference held at the University of Leipzig in Germany.

Choline is sometimes considered the unknown essential nutrient, because although the body does not produce it and not many people have heard of it, it is needed for good health. Choline is typically grouped with the B vitamins, although  it doesn't technically meet the definition of a B vitamin. In the body, choline serves three main functions. First, it is required to make the phospholipid phosphatidylcholine.

"Phosphatidylcholine is a component of all cell membranes that is required for proper cell functioning," Caudill said.

"During pregnancy, large amounts of phosphatidylcholine are needed to support the rapidly dividing cells of the developing fetus, which increases the mother's dietary requirement for choline."she said said.

In addition to making phospholipids, Choline plays an integral part in neurotransmission in its acetylcholine form.  Acetylcholine is involved in memory and learning.

"Many studies involving rodents have shown that giving mom more choline during her pregnancy improves the cognitive ability of her offspring throughout their entire lifespan," Caudill said.

Although choline may be taken by adults, the amount of choline that one is exposed to while still in the placenta has a stronger effect over time according to Caudill.

Choline's third function is to modulate levels of stress. The apprehension and anxiety characteristic of stress is often caused by a steroid hormone called cortisol.

The release of cortisol is the end product of what is known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. The hypothalamus, in the lower part of the brain, produces the neurotransmitter corticotrpin-releasing hormone, which then travels to the anterior pituitary gland. CRH stimulates the anterior pituitary gland to release another hormone, known as adrenocorticotropic hormone, which in turn travels to the adrenal cortex via the blood circulation.

The adrenal cortex, which is located on top of the kidney, is directly releases cortisol. Once released, cortisol mediates the metabolic increases of the stress response.

"Data from my research group showed that giving pregnant women more choline lowered circulating levels of cortisol in her baby," Caudill said. "The lower circulating cortisol in babies born to the mothers consuming extra choline suggests that HPA activity and reaction to stress may be lower in these babies. While the long-term consequences of our finding are unknown, others have reported a reduction in anxiety, improved learning and memory and a lower risk of stress-related diseases like hypertension among offspring with lower HPA axis activity."

According to Caudill, the key to choline's effect on the HPA axis lies in how choline affects the methylation state of placental DNA, which are the points at which DNA sequences have attached methyl groups. 

"The mechanism by which extra choline influences cortisol production relates to its role as a methyl donor," Caudill said. "We found that giving mom more choline increased the number of methyl groups and lowered the expression of genes involved in regulating the amount of cortisol produced by the HPA axis. We also found that giving mom more choline during pregnancy increased the number of methyl groups across the entire DNA sequence in the placenta which may improve genome stability and placental function"

Despite its integral part in fetal development, choline is not widely sought after as an essential nutrient during pregnancy, even though sources of choline are widely available. Some sources include egg yolks, beef, pork, legumes, and chicken, as well as broccoli and brussel sprouts.

"In the future, we'd like to see if choline may be used in a therapeutic way to lower the heightened activity of the HPA axis among babies born to mothers who experience stress, anxiety and depression during pregnancy," Caudill said.

"We'd also like to see if consuming extra choline during pregnancy may be helpful in improving placental function and enhancing cognitive abilities in the human offspring."

Caudill's research may provide additional tools for fetal programming, or the changing of the placental environment to selectively affect the fetus. Further research with choline may help make smarter, happier and healthier babies. More results of Dr. Caudill's finding will soon be published in The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.


January 10, 2012

Information on Pregancy and Choline from Pharmacist student of Dr. Zeisel's

filed under: Personal Experience Prenatal Choline News
I received an email from a former student of the leading researcher on Pregnancy and Choline - Dr. Zeisel.  It had some interesting additional information that I wanted to pass on.  The following is an excerpt from a longer email:

"You cite a 2001 article stating to start therapy in the 3rd trimester. 

I tend to follow closely Dr. Zeisel's research after hearing his presentation when I was in college around 2000.

Dr. Zeisel says to start at day 56 of human pregnancy. As a pharmacist, I keep copies of this article handy to provide to my pregnant patients if they ask for it. Dr. Zeisel says that if you do not start this early and ideally continue therapy THROUGH age 4 of the child, you will not see benefits. 

Feeding your children 3500mg in the 3rd trimester will not be sufficient [to achieve the same good results on the child's brain and memory as if you started at day 56 of the pregnancy] according to Zeisel. You may not be able to overdose the patient after the key developmental period has elapsed and still expect the same results. Further, you can't stop prematurely [before age 4], to expect Zeisel's [strong memory] results."

My take home from this is to start taking the higher levels of choline (somewhere between 1500 mg and 3,500 mg) at day 56 - and continue, if you can - through the pregnancy, and then also have higher than normal choline dosages with the child from birth through age 4 years.  What "higher dosages" of choline mean in a child age 0 to 4 is not really studied.  Our effort has been to get our children to get about 400 to 600 mg/day via eggs (about 80mg per egg of choline) and lecithin mixed with food.  But as anyone will tell you with children - getting them to eat what you want them to eat - is frequently challenging - so I don't claim to have met that goal.

admin (at)


February 23, 2009

UK Welcome Trust funds new research into how mother's diet programs baby for health

filed under: General Baby Health Prenatal Choline News Prenatal Choline Research Study
Research into choline and epigenetics is expanding rapidly.  Today there was an announcement by the Welcome Trust in the UK of a new study on how dietary factors (including choline) during pregnancy, impact the long term health of the baby.  I'm sure we'll see a lot more of these over the coming decade. 

Here is the news release:

Experiment of nature' examines how mother's diet may impact on child's health

Could our mother's diet at the time we are conceived set the course for our future health? This intriguing question is at the heart of a new study based on an "experiment of nature" being conducted by Wellcome Trust-funded researchers.

We inherit our DNA the genetic blueprint that determines our make-up from our parents: 50% of our DNA from our mothers and 50% from our fathers. Apart from the occasional mutation, deletion or duplication of information, this DNA remains unchanged between generations.

The environment, for example our diet, whether we smoke, and the toxins that we encounter in our daily life, can cause changes in how our genes are expressed in other words, how they function and these changes can be inherited, even when the DNA sequence itself does not change. These so-called "epigenetic" effects can occur through a process known as DNA methylation, where methyl caps bind to our DNA and act like dimmer switches on our genes.

Now, Dr Branwen Hennig and colleagues from the Medical Research Council (MRC) International Nutrition Group based at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have been awarded 360,000 from the Wellcome Trust to look at whether a mother's diet during pregnancy can influence these epigenetic effects.

The study will be conducted at the MRC Laboratories in Keneba, The Gambia, where the seasonal variability of food provides the ideal environment to conduct an "experiment of nature".

"During the 'hungry season' people eat mainly what they have in store, such as cereals and dried food," explains Ms Paula Dominguez-Salas, who will conduct the fieldwork in The Gambia. "They are working in the fields and have a very high energy expenditure, but their intake is very low. The 'harvest season' is the other way round and food, including fresh foods, is in relatively plentiful supply."

The researchers will measure the diets of women in early pregnancy for nutrients which affect methylation, such as folate and choline, and some B vitamins which are essential co-factors in methylation. They will compare these to levels of the nutrients in the women's blood and once the children have been born, the researchers will measure methylation patterns of the babies' DNA. This will help the researchers assess whether there is a correlation between the mother's diet and her nutritional status, and whether there are differences in methylation patterns in babies conceived during the harvest or hungry seasons.

If a mother's diet does affect her offspring's methylation patterns, this could prove very important as epigenetic changes mediated by DNA methylation are likely to have long term effects on the health and physical characteristics of offspring. Animal studies have shown that supplementing the diet of pregnant mice can lead to very marked differences in their offspring with mice fed a folate-depleted diet producing litter with different coat colour or "kinked" tails compared to those fed a diet rich in folate.

"Alterations in DNA methylation are thought to increase the risk of a child developing chronic conditions later in life, such as cardiovascular disease, cancers and type II diabetes," says Dr Hennig. "We think these epigenetic changes are established very early on in the womb."

This will be the first time that the effects of a mother's diet on epigenetic alterations of her children will be studied so extensively. A study published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked at the effect of wartime blockades in the Netherlands on the nutritional intake of mothers and whether this affected their children's expression of the IGF2 gene, which is involved in growth, as adults. It found that the IGF2 gene had 5 per cent fewer methyl caps in "famine babies" than in their siblings born outside this period. However, the study by Dr Hennig and colleagues will enable the researchers to accurately measure maternal nutritional intake and compare this to methylation patterns in their children.

The study has been welcomed by Dr Alan Schafer, Head of Molecular and Physiological Sciences at the Wellcome Trust.

"This is a very interesting and exciting area of research," says Dr Schafer. "Finding a link between these women's diet and epigenetic changes could ultimately have important implications for our understanding of long term health effects and advice on healthy eating."

Source; Welcome Trust


February 5, 2009

Choline Researcher Zeisel Suggests 850mg the minimum dose during Pregnancy

filed under: Choline Benefits General Baby Health Prenatal Choline News
At a talk at the Oregon Health Sciences University in May, 2007 - one of the top researchers who is focused on Choline (Dr. Steven Zeisel, University of North Carolina) spoke. 

"Dr. Zeisel pointed out that choline is very important for the fetal brain, and can be obtained as a supplement as phosphatidyl choline [obtained via Lecithin].  2-4 eggs per day provide enough choline during pregnancy.  The current daily value is 450 mg, but it would be useful to set the level at 850 mg.   It is like fish oil, having lifelong effect on an infant's early brain development. "
There is an ongoing human study on choline in babies right now - where they are using 900mg doses (in the pregnant mothers).  The US Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine in 1998 came out with a report on choline that suggested the maximum tolerable limit for adults (including pregnant women) is 3.75 grams/day (which is 50% of the level (7 grams/ day) at which researchers had seen any possible negative symptoms in studies.

People I have shared this information with have supplemented their diet (during pregnancy) with between 500mg and 4 grams per day, without any obvious negative symptoms - but the children are still young.  One of the biggest risk factors in this is the quality of the supplements that people take and the risk of possible contamination of the supplements.  Because of this - the researchers I've talked to tend to recommend eggs as the best source of choline (though one researcher recommended high quality Lecithin as a good source).  

Source: (
Linus Pauling Institute meeting, May 2007) Medical Doctor's Research

You can read more about Choline here at the Linus Pauling Institute web site - Choline details