The American Medical Association (AMA) have release new guidelines for proper prenatal supplementation.

Vital for healthy brain development delegates at the recent AMA Annual Meeting 2017 voted to support evidence-based amounts of choline in all prenatal vitamins.  With most prenatal supplements providing little if any choline, majority of women are lacking in this important nutrient, according to data cited in a resolution adopted by the AMA House of Delegates.  Inadequate choline levels are shown to negatively impact brain and cognitive development as well as being linked to neural tube defects.

So, what is choline?

Every cell in our body contains choline.  It is a key component of our cell walls helping maintain cell wall strength, integrity as well as assisting communication between cells.  Choline helps facilitate the transmission of nerve signals and muscle contraction as well as assisting in the absorption of vital  nutrients.  In fact, without adequate choline, our cells simply cannot survive.

Choline’s role in fertility, preconception, pregnancy & breastfeeding

Playing such a vital role in healthy cellular development, choline is especially important during pregnancy and breastfeeding. During these crucial times choline

  • Supports healthy closure of the neural tube (1)
  • Reduces the risk of neural tube defects (1)
  • May reduce risk of miscarriage (1)
  • Supports healthy brain development (2)
  • Helps support lifelong learning and memory (2)
  • Supports healthy growth of the placenta, which is the sole source of nutrition for the growing baby (3)

“The importance of choline cannot be overstated as we continue to unravel the role it plays in human health and development.” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal

How much do I need?

The Adequate Intake (AI) for choline is

425mg for women 19 years +

440mg during pregnancy

550mg during breastfeeding

Why should I boost my intake?

Research shows that around 90% of us are not getting our recommended intake.  “Our preliminary dietary studies clearly show an insufficient choline intake compared to the recommended levels,” said Curtis, an analytical chemist and project leader for ongoing choline research at the University of Alberta. (4)

The neural tube, which connects the brain and the spinal cord, develops and closes during the first 4 weeks of pregnancy, which is often before many women realise they are pregnant.  So it’s recommended to start boosting the intake of this essential nutrient as soon as you begin planning for pregnancy.  The egg also follows a 90 day life cycle before release at ovulation.  The nutrition provided during these 90 days prior to conception has a significant impact on the health of the egg released with research showing that the nutrition provided during this time can have a greater impact on the long term health of the future child than genetics.

Healthy choline intake should be continued right through pregnancy and breastfeeding to support the healthy growth and development of the baby. Breastfeeding “it’s the most nutritionally stressful period for a woman,” said Field, a researcher in nutrition and metabolism in the Department of Agricultural Food and Nutritional Science. The mothers “nutritional needs are far greater than during pregnancy because she has to produce milk, an important source of choline, for this growing infant.” (7)

Where can I get choline?

Dietary sources

lecithin granules, eggs, beef, salmon, chicken, baked beans, kidney beans, lentils, brussel sprouts, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, wheatgerm, oats and milk.

Supplementary sources

Lecithin capsules

Good pregnancy multivitamins

For more information, watch my interview with world renowned choline researcher Professor Marie Caudill

Click here to register for the live Webinar Series.


(1) Shaw GM, Carmichael SL, Yang W, Selvin S, Schaffer DM. Periconceptional dietary intake of choline and betaine and neural tube defects in offspring. Am. J. Epidemiol 2004;160:102–9. [PubMed: 15234930]

(2) Morgane PJ, Mokler DJ, Galler JR. Effects of prenatal protein malnutrition on the hippocampal formation. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2002;26:471-483

(3) Ozarda IY, Uncu G, Ulus IH. Free and phospholipid-bound choline concentrations in serum during pregnancy, after delivery and in newborns. Arch. Physiol. Biochem 2002;110:393–99. [PubMed:12530624]

(4) Andrea Hill. U of A researchers strive to increase awareness of forgotten essential nutrient. University of Alberta News August 5, 2011