Catherine Adams Hutt: Hi! I am Catherine Adams Hutt; Registered Dietitian, and Nutrition and Science advisor to the Choline Information Council. I am here to talk about the nutrient choline which maybe one of todays least well understood nutrients.
Choline was declared an essential nutrient by the Institute of Medicine in 1998 but evidence from dietary surveys show that more than 90% of the US population is not getting enough choline. In fact, only children typically get enough choline and most adults including pregnant and lactating women dont get as much choline as they need.
Diets deficient in choline can affect how our brain develops as well as how our brain ages.
Dr. Steven Zeisel: One of the important functions of choline is to help your brain work. Now, brain uses choline to make a nerve messenger chemical called acetylcholine and acetylcholine is the messenger chemical used by every nerve that leaves the brain and talks to the rest of your body.
Catherine Adams Hutt: Research shows the important of choline for the developing fetus and new born. Fetal nutrition sets a stage for organ function in later life so its very important that pregnant women are consuming enough choline in their diets.
Dr. Steven Zeisel: Choline availability from your mother determines how your brain forms, and how many nerve stem cells divide and how many nerve cells you have in your memory center and in your cortex which is the area where you have functions like judgment or higher thinking processes.
Catherine Adams Hutt: Cognitive development is influenced by many factors including nutrition; our nutritional status including our choline status helps support optimal brain function and academic performance in children.
Dr. Steven Zeisel: So the best evidence was generated by investigators at the Harvard School of Public Health and that group measured how much choline women ate during pregnancy 1st, 2nd, 3rd trimester. And then 7 years later they tested the children of those mothers on IQ and cognitive function tests and what they found was is that the children whose mothers had more choline during the last two trimesters of pregnancy did better on those IQ and memory tests.
Catherine Adams Hutt: In addition to improving academic performance choline may have a role in preventing Alzheimers disease, the most common form of dementia affecting 26 million people globally. Dr. Steven Zeisel: We know that at least the memory area of the brain has stem cells that are still dividing and forming new nerve cells into late middle lives, maybe 50, 55 something like that and we know that in mouse models we can encourage those adult stem cells to form more nerve cells by giving more choline and more importantly that enrichment of activities in the mouse giving them games to play and mazes to run on and combining choline with that seems to be synergistic, you get more bang for your buck if choline is present. Catherine Adams Hutt: As you can see choline is an essential nutrient, important for the development and proper functioning of the brain. Its important to get enough choline at all life stages and to have a healthy lifestyle, which includes a well balanced diet, not smoking and getting enough exercise everyday.