Dr. Marie Caudill: Hi there! I am Dr. Marie Caudill, a Professor in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University. Today I'm here to talk about Choline, an essential nutrient with critical roles in reproductive outcomes and womens health.
Research has shown that increasing maternal Choline intake during pregnancy may lower the risk of having a baby with a birth effect of the brain or spinal cord. In addition, extra Choline enhances the development and function of the placenta, an organ with critical roles in maternal and offspring health. For example, a higher maternal Choline intake was found to decrease placental production of a protein that contributes to preeclampsia; a life-threatening disorder that adversely impacts the health of the mother and her unborn child.
Research has also shown that more Choline during pregnancy eases a babys response to stress. Specifically newborns of mothers consuming additional Choline had lower circulating concentrations of cortisol, a stress hormone.
Remarkably Choline lowered this stress hormone by chemically modifying genes that stimulate cortisol production. Because these chemical modifications can be long-lasting, prenatal Choline supplementation could be a nutritional strategy for lowering an infants vulnerability to stress-related illnesses in later life, such as mental health disturbances, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes.
A wealth of data from animal studies has shown that increase in Choline intake during pregnancy improves cognitive functioning of the offspring throughout their lives. Although data from human studies are mixed; findings of a feeding study that control maternal Choline intake suggest this may be true in humans as well. For example, infants of mothers consuming additional Choline processed information more quickly and were more proficient in encoding visual memories than infants of mothers consuming less Choline.
There is also evidence that a higher Choline intake by mom during pregnancy benefits the development of the eye in infants. Choline is important to women of all ages. It plays a critical role in organ health and its associated with better cognition and lower risk of dementia associated pathologies.
The bottomline is all women should consume adequate amounts of Choline either through their diet or consumption of a Choline containing supplement.