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Choline in Pregnancy Impacts Sustained Attention in Children


Choline, by its full name phosphatidylcholine, is a natural essential nutrient, necessary for cell membranes and the synthesis of many chemical messengers in the body. It participates concretely in the synthesis of fatty substances found between the cells of the skin and which makes it possible to bring cohesion to the cutaneous barrier, as well as to liver detoxification avoiding the accumulation of cholesterol and fats from food in the body. Finally, at the level of the nervous system, choline participates in the synthesis of certain neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine. During pregnancy, a deficiency causes abnormalities in development of the child’s brain, which can have serious and lasting repercussions.

In some countries, a choline supplement is systematically prescribed to pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding: this is particularly the case in the United States for example, but not in France as the scientific journal Vidal explains on this subject. Several decades of scientific research in rodents have shown that adding choline Supplementing a pregnant woman’s diet promotes long-term cognitive benefits for her unborn child. In particular his attention and his memory throughout his life, and this is what researchers wanted to verify. from Cornell University (USA) in a recent study published by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) in its journal.

“Cognitive and neuroprotective benefits” already demonstrated in animals

The scientific team started from the observation that choline, found in egg yolks, lean red meat, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts, and cruciferous vegetables, is absent from most prenatal vitamins given to pregnant women. In fact, a majority of them are likely not consuming enough large quantity. In this study, all participants consumed a diet prepared with a specified amount of choline throughout the 3rd trimester of pregnancy. Half consumed 480 mg of choline per day, slightly above the US recommended adequate intake level of 450 mg/day. The other half consumed 930 mg of choline per day, which is about double this recommendation.

Tests were then carried out on the children of these participants seven years later. The results showed that the children of women who consumed 480 mg/day of choline during their 3rd trimester of pregnancy performed less well in terms of sustained attention during a task compared to to women’s children while consuming 930 mg/day, which maintained a high level of accuracy throughout this task. “By demonstrating that maternal choline supplementation in humans produces benefits in offspring similar to those seen in animals, our results suggest that the range of benefits cognitive and neuroprotective demonstrated in rodents can also be observed in humans. “say the researchers.

Improved sustained attention, significant cognitive ability

The latter had already demonstrated in a previous study that maternal choline supplementation allowed improve processing speed information throughout the first year of life in these same children. So far, little human research has evaluated the effect of maternal choline supplementation and this is the first study to follow the children up to school age. “By showing that the beneficial effects of prenatal choline supplementation last into childhood, these results illustrate its role in programming the cognitive development of the child. The ability to maintain sustained attention in difficult situations is essential to almost all areas of life. cognitive performance. “, conclude the scientific team.

Note, however, that there are precautions to be taken. with choline in the form of dietary supplements. Vidal thus specifies that in people suffering from liver problems or those suffering from trimethylaminuria (a genetic disease), “taking choline gives a smell of rotten fish to urine, sweat and breath”. taking choline is also not recommended for people with depression or Parkinson’s disease, to avoid possible aggravation of symptoms. As for pregnant and breastfeeding women, the review recalls the importance of discussing a possible treatment with their doctor. based on choline, but never resort to it alone without medical supervision.

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