Choline During Pregnancy Affects Sustained Attention In Children: Study | Photo credit: iStock Images
Washington: A new Cornell study found that seven-year-old children perform better at a demanding task that requires sustained attention if their mothers ingest twice the amount of choline during their pregnancy. The results were published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. The study, which compared these children to those whose mothers consumed 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 population-wide benefits of adding choline to standard prenatal vitamin therapy,” said Barbara Strupp, professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences (DNS) and Department of Psychology and co-senior author of the Prenatal Choline study. Dietary Supplements Improve Sustained Attention in Children: A Seven-Year Follow-Up from a Randomized Controlled Feeding Study.
The study’s first author is Charlotte Bahnfleth, PhD. ’19, a former PhD student in Strupp’s laboratory. Co-senior author is Richard Canfield, Senior Research Associate, DNS. Marie Caudill, professor of DNA, was also a co-author.
Choline – found in egg yolks, lean red meat, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts, and cruciferous vegetables – is absent from most prenatal vitamins, and more than 90 percent of expectant mothers eat less than the recommended amount. Several decades of research using rodent models have shown that adding extra choline to the maternal diet has long-term cognitive benefits for the offspring. In addition to improving the attention and memory of the offspring 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 containing a certain amount of choline during their third trimester of pregnancy. Half of these women consumed 480 mg of choline per day, which slightly exceeded the Recommended Adequate Intake (AI) of 450 mg / day. The other half consumed a total intake of 930 mg choline per day, about twice the AI level. When tested at 7 years of age, the children of the 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 in the 930 mg / day group showed a high level of. maintained accuracy throughout the task. These results correspond to the effects of maternal choline supplementation and choline withdrawal in rodents, using a very analogous sustained attention task.
“By showing that maternal choline supplementation in humans produces a similar attentional advantage for the offspring as it does in animals,” Strupp said, “our results suggest that the full range of cognitive and neuroprotective benefits that have been shown in rodents , can also be observed in humans. “
The new results build on an earlier study by this research group that describes the benefits in infancy. This study showed that maternal choline supplementation improved information processing speed during the first year of life in the same children. Few human studies have looked at the effects of maternal choline supplementation, and this is the first study to follow children through school age.
“By showing that the beneficial effects of prenatal supplementation persist into childhood, these results illustrate a role for prenatal choline in programming the course of children’s cognitive development,” Canfield said. “And since the ability to maintain alertness in challenging situations is critical to almost all areas of cognitive performance, the cumulative effect of enhancing sustained alertness is likely to be significant.”
Current recommendations – also for pregnant women – were established in 1998 and are based on the amount of choline needed to prevent liver dysfunction in men, as studies have shown. This research was sponsored by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Balchem Corp. financed. Bahnfleth was supported by a NICHD traineeship and the Egg Nutrition Center Young Investigator Research Award for Early Exploration.