Sunday, November 19, 2006

Prenatal Choline For A Smarter Baby and Adult

Nutrient during pregnancy 'super-charges' brain NewScientist 3/12/04 "Taking a nutrient called choline during pregnancy could "super-charge" children's brains for life, suggests a study in rats."..."due to having bigger brain cells in vital areas"..."Choline, a member of the vitamin B family, is found in egg yolks, liver and other meats "..."US Institute of Medicine added choline to the list of essential nutrients, particularly for pregnant women, in its 2003 recommendations"..."The neurons of rats born to mothers given extra choline fired electrical signals more rapidly and for longer periods, indicating a capacity to communicate more easily"..."Previous work by Steven Zeisel at the University of North Carolina has shown choline alters a crucial gene by adding a methyl group on to it. This switches off the gene, CDKN-3, which usually inhibits cell division in the memory regions of the brain"
Prenatal Choline Supplements Make Brain Cells Larger, Faster
"The implications for humans are profound, said the researchers, because the collective data on choline suggests that simply augmenting the diets of pregnant women with this one nutrient could affect their children's lifelong learning and memory. In theory, choline could boost cognitive function, diminish age-related memory decline, and reduce the brain's vulnerability toxic insults"

This is very promising research not only for the brain boost the child/adult gets but also the ability for the brain to resist age related cognitive decline. It appears that the crucial time for a boost in choline is in the second half of pregnancy. But since choline is important for the development of the brain throughout pregnancy and the 1st year of the child - it appears that choline should probably be taken early on and through the 1st year where it will pass through lactation. A study in Denver commencing soon will be providing 900mg of choline throughout pregnancy. This appears to be well within safe levels for the mother and child and should allow for some methylation of the cdkn3 gene so that a boost to memory centers occurs.

The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences recommends 450mg of choline for pregnant women and 550mg for lactating women. But the key question is at what levels does choline methylate, or turn off the cdkn3 gene that limits stem cell proliferation in the hippocampus. The studies on rodents seem to use 3 or more times the amount of their regular intake of choline. The research so far seems to indicate that the more choline that is ingested the greater the gene silencing that occurs - the more certain sections of the brain are enhanced.

It doesn't appear that an optimal dose for humans has been set, although I suspect that lead researchers in this field have a general idea. As I understand it,1-2gms a day is a level where apparently there are no side effects for most people. 3-5gms a day has been determined to be the upper limit of most people - beyond that is nausea and other side effects.

Other proven brain boosters during the prenatal period are:

DHA (docosahexanoic acid ) from fish oil or from microalgae.


One thing to consider if supplementing with choline is what form of choline you are taking and then find out what percentage of that form is elemental choline (the usable form).

Eggs seem like an ideal source of choline, but eggs apparently range from 125mg of choline to 350mg. Why? I have no idea. Diet? Lifestyle of chicken? Genes?

More info here , here and here .

Update: 2008.05.07 The latest research on choline and IQ here. The thumbnail sketch is that choline in normal concentrations does not seem to affect IQ up to the age of 5. It does not address supplemental choline. What remains to be seen is whether elevated levels of choline, beyond normal concentrations, have an effect in humans as it appears to have in rodents. Also this is only research up to age 5. It will be interesting to see if there is any differences at age 10 regarding those children with lowest prenatal choline levels vs those with the highest.

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