Choline intake benefits during pregnancy

A new study done at Cornell University and published June 2(2010) in the peer-reviewed journal Behavioral Neuroscience found that more choline during pregnancy and nursing could provide lasting cognitive and emotional benefits to people with Down syndrome. The work indicated greater maternal levels of the essential nutrient  could protect against neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.


"We found that supplementing the maternal diet with additional choline resulted in dramatic improvements in attention and some normalization of emotion regulation in a mouse model of Down syndrome," said lead author Barbara Strupp, professor of nutritional sciences and of psychology. The discovery could lead to  increasing the maternal dietary recommendations for choline, currently 450 milligrams a day during pregnancy, 550 milligrams for lactation.


Dr. Randy Fink, a Miami, Fla., OB/GYN and Fellow with the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, says that during pregnancy, choline stores can be depleted.







More benefits of Choline

  • Choline is important for the structural integrity of our cell membranes- Choline, or its metabolites, are needed for the structural integrity and signaling functions of cell membranes; it is the major source of methyl-groups in the diet (one of choline's metabolites, betaine, participates in the methylation of homocysteine to form methionine), and it directly affects cholinergic neurotransmission, transmembrane signaling and lipid transport/metabolism


  • the breakdown and utilization of fat for energy- Choline has several unique connection to fat and its name reflects the fact- chole in Greek means "bile" and bile is the liver's unique food for processing fat.  Choline is also nestled in the fat layers of the membranes of each cell of the body  and it modifies membrane fats to give them greater flexibility in sustaining the cells. As it helps in the utilization of fat within the body  choline is often referred to as one of the "lipotropic" B vitamins.


  • Cholesterol transport and elimination from the body- It is necessary for lipid and cholesterol transport from liver. Choline helps emulsify fat, keeping it in liquid form and suspension. As long as cholesterol is emulsified, it isn't likely to settle in the arterial walls. Choline helps transport cholesterol and fats so they can be used by the body or excreted to maintain healthy cholesterol levels already in the normal range.


  • It is necessary for normal muscle function- The bladder is a muscle which is under cholinergic control. Acetylcholine stimulates a type of receptor in the body called a muscarinic receptor. Stimulation of the muscarinic receptors in muscles leads to a contraction of the muscle. Acetylcholine stimulates the muscle contractions of the bladder and supports healthy urinary function.


  • Choline is significant for communicating information from nerve to nerve-  These are chemicals are stored in nerve cells and are involved in transmitting messages between the nerve cells and muscle cells. Acetylcholine is found in nerve endings and is constantly being manufactured and broken down by the body.


  • Plays an important role in male and female fertility-  Choline is a nutrient that potentially enhances sexuality through its conversion to acetylcholine. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves are the main driver of testicular functions - and can help stimulate the libido.


  • Choline helps increase the number of cells in the memory center during a critical period of brain development. Choline is required for the synthesis of one of our body's primary neurotransmitters, acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is vital for thought, memory and sleep, and is also involved in the control of movement. Animals whose mothers were fed supplemental choline scored better on memory tasks throughout their entire lifetime compared to animals born to mothers who were choline deficient. A research (Apr. 9, 1998) had shown that choline enhances a brain function called long-term potentiation (LTP), in which the act of receiving an electrical stimulus or "message" actually paves a pathway allowing future messages to reach the nerve cell more easily -- similar to the way that rain water creates a furrow through soil upon repeated downpours, enabling even a small trickle to find its way more easily.


Food Sources of Choline

Choline is a naturally occurring amino acid existing primarily in nature as lecithin and is found in egg yolks, milk, nuts, chicken and beef liver, pork loin, roasted chicken, ground beef, shrimp, soybeans and wheat germ as well as in human breast milk. Choline can also be found in potatoes, lentils, cauliflower, oats, sesame seeds and flax seeds and, in lower amounts, in some leafy green vegetables. It is the essential building block for a memory-forming brain chemical called acetylcholine, and it plays a vital role in the formation of cell membranes throughout the body.



Food items

Choline content

(mg/100 g food)


Animal food products

Egg, yolk, raw, fresh


Chicken, liver, all classes, cooked, pan-fried


Egg, whole, cooked, fried


Egg, whole, raw, fresh


Egg, whole, cooked, hard boiled


Turkey, liver, all classes, raw


Chicken, liver, all classes, raw


Turkey, heart, all classes, raw


Turkey, gizzard, all classes, raw


Chicken, broilers or fryers, meat only, raw


Chicken, broilers or fryers, meat and skin, raw



Plant food products

Mustard seed, yellow


pistachio nuts


Garlic powder






Ginger, ground


Brussels sprouts, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt




Broccoli, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt


Broccoli, raw


Mushrooms, raw


Asparagus, raw


Clementines, raw


Radishes, raw


Blueberries, raw


Cucumber, peeled, raw




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