Fertility Tip #1 – National Fertility Week UK – Boost your Choline intake

For those of you who saw the wonderful interview with Professor Marie Caudill, here is a brief overview and the best food sources as discussed.  If you missed the webinar, be sure to watch the replay below and get your copy of Choline The Vital Prenatal Nutrient – Your Ultimate Guide.

What is choline?

Choline is an essential nutrient, which is involved in the development, structure and function of every cell in our body.  It is particularly important in brain development.

Why is choline important during pregnancy and breastfeeding?

  • Supports healthy neural tube closure (1) 
  • Reduces the risk of neural tube defects (1) 
  • Helps reduce risk of miscarriage (1) 
  • Supports healthy brain development (2)
  • Supports healthy growth of the placenta (3)
  • May help support lifelong learning and memory (4)
  • Reduces stress and anxiety levels in the infant (5)

Why should I boost my intake?

Research shows that around 90% of women are not reaching the recommended adequate intake.

What if I’m not pregnant yet?

The neural tube, which connects the brain and the spinal cord, develops and closes during the first 4 weeks of pregnancy.  High levels of choline reduce the risk of neural tube defects.  So it’s recommended to start boosting your intake of this essential nutrient as soon as you begin planning for pregnancy. 

How much do I need?

The Adequate Intake (AI) for choline is

440mg during pregnancy

550mg during breastfeeding

Where can I get choline?

Dietary sources

lecithin granules, eggs (egg yolk), beef, salmon, prawns, scallops, chicken, peanuts, kidney beans, lentils, brussel sprouts, broccoli, spinach, asparagus, cauliflower, wheatgerm, cabbage, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds and fresh milk.

Supplementary sources

Good prenatal multivitamins

What the experts are saying

“As choline levels went up, risk went down,” said Gary Shaw, DrPH, professor of neonatology and primary study author. The risk of neural tube defects was found to e 2.4 times higher in women with the lowest blood levels of choline compared to those who’s blood levels were average, furthermore those with the highest blood choline levels were found to have the lowest risk” (1)

“The importance of choline cannot be overstated as we continue to unravel the role it plays in human health and development” Gerald Weissmann MD, Editori-in-Chief FASEB Journal (6)

‘Choline in the diet of the pregnant mother and infant is directly related to permanent changes in brain function.  Without enough choline during the critical time of brain growth and development, intelligence, memory and possibly mood regulation will be damaged permanently. We may not be able to measure the exact impact on IQ or other brain functions, but we do know enough at this point to start preaching the choline message’. A review in the Journal of Pediatrics concluded

What the experts are doing

The American Medical Association recently voted in support of choline in all prentatal supplements.  This is a fabulous leap forward but is yet to take effect.  Therefore, you should look closely at your chosen supplement to ensure it provides choline.

As dietary intake is proving to be greatly lacking, increased choline intake and supplementation, is not only highly recommended during pregnancy and breastfeeding, but may prove to be vital for the short and long term pregnancy and infant health outcomes.

Watch the full Webinar

(1) Stanford University School of Medicine. “Low Choline Levels In Pregnant Women Raise Babies’ Risk For Brain And Spinal-cord Defects, Study Shows.” ScienceDaily, 17 Aug. 2009

(2) Brian T. F. Wu et al. “Early Second Trimester Maternal Plasma Choline and Betaine Are Related to Measures of Early Cognitive Development in Term Infants” PLOS 20 Aug 2012

(3) Julia H King et al. “Maternal Choline Supplementation Alters Fetal Growth Patterns in a Mouse Model of Placental Insufficiency” Nutrients MDPI, 18 July 2017

(4) Stephen H Zeisel “Choline: Needed for Normal Development of Memory” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 19, No. 5, 528S–531S (2000)

(5) Division of Nutritional Science, Cornell University. “Maternal choline intake alters the epigenetic state of fetal cortisol-regulating genes in humans” The FASEB Journal 1 May 2012

(6) Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. “Sick from stress? Blame your mom…and epigenetics.” ScienceDaily, 31 Jul. 2012