Choline during pregnancy affects children’s persistent attention: Study Photo credit: iStock images
Washington: Seven-year-olds performed better on a challenging task that requires sustained attention if their mothers ingested twice the recommended amount of choline during their pregnancy, a new Cornell study has found. The results were published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. The study, which compared these children with those whose mothers had ingested the recommended amount of choline, suggests that the recommended choline intake for expectant mothers does not fully meet the needs of the fetal brain.
“Our results suggest benefits for the entire population by adding choline to a standard prenatal vitamin regimen,” said Barbara Strupp, professor in the Division of Nutritional Sciences (DNS) and Department of Psychology, and co-senior author of the study, ‘Prenatal Choline Supplement improves children’s sustained attention: a seven-year follow-up of a randomized controlled feeding trial ‘.
The first author of the study is Charlotte Bahnfleth, Ph.D. ’19, a former graduate student in the Strupp laboratory. Co-senior author is Richard Canfield, senior research associate at DNS. Marie Caudill, professor of DNS, was also a co-author.
Choline – found in egg yolks, lean red meats, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts and cruciferous vegetables – is absent in most prenatal vitamins, and more than 90 percent of expectant mothers consume less than the recommended amount. Several decades of research using rodent models have shown that adding extra choline to the mother’s diet provides long-term cognitive benefits to the offspring. In addition to improving the offspring’s attention and memory throughout life, maternal choline supplementation in rodents has been shown to be neuroprotective for the offspring by alleviating the cognitive adversity caused by prenatal stress, fetal alcohol exposure, autism, epilepsy, Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease.
In the Cornell study, all women ate a prepared diet with a certain amount of choline throughout the third trimester of pregnancy. Half of these women ingested 480 mg of choline per day, slightly exceeding the recommended adequate intake (AI) level of 450 mg / day. The other half ingested a total intake of 930 mg of choline per day, about twice the AI level. In tests at the age of 7 years, children of women in the 480 mg / day group showed a decrease in inaccuracy from the beginning to the end of a sustained attention task, while the children of the 930 mg / day group maintained a high level of accuracy through the whole task. These results are parallel to the effects of maternal choline supplementation and deprivation in rodents using a closely analogous sustained attention task.
“By demonstrating that maternal choline supplementation in humans gives offspring attention benefits similar to those seen in animals,” Strupp said, “our results suggest that the full range of cognitive and neuroprotective benefits demonstrated in rodents can also be seen. in humans. “
The new results are based on a previous study from this research group, which describes benefits during infancy. This study showed that maternal choline supplementation improved the rate of information processing throughout the first year of life in the same children. Few studies in humans have evaluated the effect of maternal choline supplementation, and this is the first study to follow children to school age.
“By showing that the beneficial effects of prenatal supplementation last into childhood, these results illustrate a role for prenatal choline in the programming of the child’s cognitive development,” Canfield said. “And because the ability to maintain attention in challenging situations is crucial to almost all areas of cognitive performance, the cumulative effect of improving sustained attention is likely to be significant.”
Current recommendations – including those for pregnant women – were set in 1998 and are based on the amount of choline needed to prevent liver dysfunction in men, studies have shown. This research was funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Balchem Corp. Bahnfleth was supported by a NICHD intern and the Egg Nutrition Center Young Investigator Research Award for Early Exploration.