Research Shows Choline Plays Critical Role in Pregnancy and Women’s Health
Escondido, CA, July 28, 2015— Choline offers health benefits to women throughout their lives. Marie Caudill, PhD, RD, Professor, Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University, says “Choline is an essential nutrient with critical roles in reproductive outcomes and women’s health.”
“Research shows increasing maternal choline intake may lower the risk of having a baby with brain or spinal cord birth defects,” Dr. Caudill says. “Extra choline enhances the development and function of the placenta, and eases a baby’s response to stress.” Supplementing prenatal choline may be a nutritional strategy for lowering an infant’s vulnerability to stress-related illnesses —including mental health disturbances, hypertension and type 2 diabetes—in later life. According to Dr. Steven Zeisel, Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina, “Prenatal choline helps develop the memory center of the brain in the fetus; supplementing prenatal choline may support the brain during aging and help prevent changes in brain chemistry that result in cognitive decline.”
“Choline is important to women of all ages,” Dr. Caudill says. “It plays a critical role in organ health. It is associated with better cognition and lower risk of dementia-associated brain pathologies.”
Physically active women can benefit from choline because it generates the neurotransmitter acetylcholine that supports muscle contraction. Supplemental choline can promote endurance in prolonged exercise. While some women can synthesize choline in the body in an estrogen-dependent reaction, 44% have a genetic disorder that prohibits choline synthesis and need choline from diet or supplements. Most post-menopausal women do not synthesize choline and 80% need choline sources, according to Dr. Zeisel.
More than 90 percent of the U.S. population currently does not meet the Adequate Intake (AI) recommendation for choline—425 mg per day for women. Pregnancy demands increase to 450 mg per day; for lactating women, intake increases to 550 mg per day. Only 10 percent of pregnant women in the U.S. meet those AI levels. Many prenatal vitamins do not contain choline.
The consumption of choline-rich foods like eggs and liver has decreased, so it is almost always necessary to supplement the diet with choline. Dr. Caudill says, “The bottom line is, all women should consume adequate amounts of choline, either through diet or consumption of a choline-containing supplement.”