Recently in Personal Experience Category

March 27, 2014

Prenatal Choline Impact on Language Acquisition

filed under: Choline Benefits Personal Experience
Our 5-year old had a verbal test of Mandarin proficiency last month for entering into Kindergarten (a Mandarin immersion program we are considering).  She scored 99 out of 100 on the test and the people administering the test (and in the office) were blown away by her fluency.  Its not often they see little white kids perfectly fluent in Mandarin, she said.  One Chinese (American born Chinese) woman jokingly said she wanted our daughter to teach her Mandarin.  

I'm a believer in prenatal choline supplementation, needless to say.


January 24, 2014

One Visitor's Questions about Pregnancy and Choline

filed under: Choline Benefits Personal Experience Prenatal Choline Research Study
Recently got this email from a woman.  Here is the email and my responses so others can learn from it:


I come from Denmark and have been very interested in your website through my pregnancy. Im 34 weeks along now.

I have some questions I hope you are willing to answer.

Since week 10 in my pregnancy I have been taking a soy lecitin supplement containing 520 mg GMO-free lecithin and 60 mg phosphatidylcholin pr capsule (I take 2 a day.) This is the product:

Is this safe or should I stop?

For a week when I was 17-18 weeks pregnant I took another supplement: lecithin granules derived from GMO-free soy beans.

I took 1 tablespoon (about 10 g) a day for a week untill I found a study about some rats who had poor reflexes because their mother-rat was fed with lecithin granules through pregnancy. I stopped imediately after this discovery. I Think the lecthin granules contained about 800 mg choline.

Did this supplement harm my baby?

How much choline or phospatidylcholine (is this the same as choline?) should I consume a Day and which supplement

Here is my response:

I'm not a scientist or a doctor - I just read a lot of the science literature and make the best interpretation that I can.  I recommend you read up on my blog as much as you can to get the full background. I can't tell you what to do. I can just tell you what I would do if I had another baby.

 First of all, you mentioned that "I found a study about some rats who had poor reflexes because their mother-rat was fed with lecithin granules through pregnancy." - I think I saw that study - but it was very old - about 30 years old I think. The many studies since then have not seen that effect and in fact see very good outcomes. Can you send me a link to that study if you can please.  

If you do a search on on "pregnancy and choline" or "prenatal choline" you'll see that about 50 relevant studies have been done over the past 25 years or so on prenatal supplementation with choline during pregnancy.  This you mentioned is  the only study to my knowledge that showed negative results - and its from a relatively unknown lab in Russia (and not from a well-known lab that focuses on choline research).  When I mentioned this study to other researchers who focus on choline research in the USA academic centers - they say that they think that the Russians didn't do a well controlled study - and the results are flawed - because it goes against all the other studies done in the past 25 years.  So - I don't pay much attention to it.

We ended up taking a balanced approach - 50% Phosphatydyl choline and 50% Choline Bitartrate.  But now I would just take the Phosphatydyl choline (other parents I've talked to did just this, one parent just 3 grams of choline in the form of choline Lecithin granules.  And I've talked to researchers - they also recommend phosphatidyl choline and the most recent study (see below regarding the study in preventing mental illness used it too - and has had good results).

You are only taking 120mg of choline - two pills of 60 mg,  ( phosphatidylcholine) which is not even at the level of the minimum recommended daily level during pregnancy. See these documents:

550 mg during pregnancy is the absolute minimum recommended by the medical field here in the USA and most people I've talked to or read about now suggest no less than 900 mg a day - just to minimize deficiencies in choline during pregnancy.

But the research that I've focused on is that if you take much larger amounts that the brain seems to get "turbo charged" and work much better as the child grows - see this research:

In fact, the minimum RDA (recommended daily amount) is about 550 mg of choline a day to prevent a deficit.  However even moderate levels of choline (in the 550 mg to 900mg a day have not shown any of the extra benefit in terms of memory and brain development that the mouse research has shown - see this study:


We took about 3.5 grams of phospatidyl choline a day during our pregnancy - based on soy lecithin (we took probably 10 or 15 grams of lecithin a day , split between breakfast, lunch and dinnner. Our kids are very health and at the top of their classes and at 3.5 and 5 years old they are fluent in Mandarin Chinese and English (better then most of the native Chinese speaker children in their school I am told). 

I don't see anything wrong with the lecithin you are taking - but you are taking a very small amount compared to what we took and what I think is now the best level to take (5 to 6 grams a day).   See this study:

So - the only thing I'd do differently if I were you is to increase the level of Lecithin to this higher level to get the expected benefits in terms of brain development.  The experts are doing tests with this higher level (see the study above) so I think it safe. (but of course others may disagree).

You asked "How much choline or phospatidylcholine (is this the same as choline?) should I consume a Day and which supplement?"

Phosphatydyl choline is a type of choline - and the one the I and other parents I've talked to think is the best source.

And also used a lot of the granules (I mixed it into Quiches, and spaghetti sauce, etc.) and we also ate a lot of egg yolks - the best source.

Your sources are a lot more expensive than our sources, unfortunately.

Lastly - since you're pregnant right now - I recommend you read this page and the associated documents:

I hope this helps


December 10, 2013

Update on our High Choline Children

filed under: Personal Experience
I'm way too busy for a detailed update - but generally things are going well.

Both our children - age 3 and 5 now - are top in their preschool classes in their Mandarin language abilities (as well as English) - and are very happy, curious and quick-to-learn kids. 

One interesting fact that our younger child's teacher recently pointed out is that the younger child can (even at this age) effortlessly switch between the languages without any delays or "having to think for a moment" - and gets humor in both languages.  

We need to work a little on the boy's empathy towards other children - but its nothing thats out of the normal range. Our son stopped napping before age 2, and is still one of the two most active kids in his class (all but one other kid in his class still naps).

All in all, things seem to be going very good for our children.

Thats it for now.

Feel free to email me with your experiences and questions.  

admin (at)

May 10, 2013

Downsides / Risks of High Choline Kids

filed under: Choline Risks Personal Experience
People always ask me what the downside of having high-choline kids (i.e. kids with better memories, higher IQ, less anxiety, etc.) - generally there have not been many I can think of.  One area where I think increasingly that there might be a risk of a downside is in the area highlighted in the research below.  Generally - high choline kids seem to have much higher thresholds for fear; it takes more to get them frightened of a situation.  I think this is probably a positive thing in most situations.  But research is starting to tease out some negatives too.  Here is, I think, one area where parents of high choline kids need to be aware of a risk.  New research is showing the lower fear responsiveness is associated with higher risk of aggression.  

While at first this might seem like a strange association --  what has fear got to do with aggression?  But - when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.  If someone is more afraid or concerned about how other people might react to their behavior, they are going to be more careful about being aggressive because they are afraid of the results.  If you lack that fear - you might be more aggressive because you aren't afraid of the repercussions (at least not initially).  

I see this sometimes in my own kids - the higher tendency towards aggression at times.  The best example I can think of is when they did a trial playdate as part of our younger child's entry into the the preschool we applied to (and which our older child attends).  Its a Mandarin immersion preschool - and perhaps 60% are children of Chinese-origin parents, while 30% are mixed race (Chinese / Caucasion typically) and then a minority are pure Caucasian like ourselves.  I note this only because it seems to me that there is a tendency towards higher levels of anxiety in Chinese children - if only because their parents seem to have such demanding standards in terms of behaviors and academic standards.  I also note this because during the "evaluation" play date (imagine a classroom with a dozen 2 year olds playing in a room with lots of toys, and half a dozen teachers and maybe a psychologist or two, taking notes on all the behaviors of the kids for an hour) - only our child yelled out loud (a couple of times during the hour) that the toy his friend was playing with was actually his and he wanted it back.  

All the other kids barely interacted with anyone else - they played by themselves and avoided the other children, for the most part.  My child was the one yelling at the other kid (a child of a friend of ours - and they have fought before over toys when we've been together - so that may also be a factor).

Anyway - perhaps something to be wary of - as high choline kids are definitely less fearful than the average kid.

Infants' Sweat Response Predicts Aggressive Behavior as Toddlers

Infants who sweat more in response to scary situations at age 1 show less physical and verbal aggression at age 3. 

Apr. 23, 2013 -- Infants who sweat less in response to scary situations at age 1 show more physical and verbal aggression at age 3, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Lower levels of sweat, as measured by skin conductance activity (SCA), have been linked with conduct disorder and aggressive behavior in children and adolescents. Researchers hypothesize that aggressive children may not experience as strong of an emotional response to fearful situations as their less aggressive peers do; because they have a weaker fear response, they are more likely to engage in antisocial behavior.

Psychological scientist Stephanie van Goozen of Cardiff University and colleagues wanted to know whether the link between low SCA and aggressive behaviors could be observed even as early as infancy.

To investigate this, the researchers attached recording electrodes to infants' feet at age 1 and measured their skin conductance at rest, in response to loud noises, and after encountering a scary remote-controlled robot. They also collected data on their aggressive behaviors at age 3, as rated by the infants' mothers.

The results revealed that 1 year-old infants with lower SCA at rest and during the robot encounter were more physically and verbally aggressive at age 3.

Interestingly, SCA was the only factor in the study that predicted later aggression. The other measures taken at infancy -- mothers' reports of their infants' temperament, for instance -- did not predict aggression two years later.

These findings suggest that while a physiological measure (SCA) taken in infancy predicts aggression, mothers' observations do not.

"This runs counter to what many developmental psychologists would expect, namely that a mother is the best source of information about her child," van Goozen notes.

At the same time, this research has important implications for intervention strategies:

"These findings show that it is possible to identify at-risk children long before problematic behavior is readily observable," van Goozen concludes. "Identifying precursors of disorder in the context of typical development can inform the implementation of effective prevention programs and ultimately reduce the psychological and economic costs of antisocial behavior to society."

Co-authors on this research include Erika Baker, Katherine Shelton, Eugenia Baibazarova, and Dale Hay of Cardiff University.

This research was supported by studentships from the School of Psychology, Cardiff University, and by a grant from the Medical Research Council.


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."