Why You Should Be Mindful of Choline During Pregnancy
December 28, 2019
Choline is an essential nutrient that is responsible for the regulation of mood, memory, muscle function and many other important processes. It is also essential in forming membranes around your body’s cells that help protect and regulate them.1-2 Without adequate amounts of choline, choline deficiency may occur, which can cause muscle and liver damage if left untreated.2 Although many of us do not get the recommended amount of choline, very few exhibit symptoms of choline deficiency, likely because our bodies are able to produce a small amount of choline on their own.1 However, it’s important to be mindful of choline and which healthy foods can provide the most choline benefits – especially for expecting mothers.
Sources of Choline
Choline is found in many different foods. The best sources of choline include eggs, fish, poultry, lean red meat, dairy, potatoes and cruciferous vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower. Choline can also be found in some beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Because choline is found in many different types of food, you can get the recommended amount by eating a variety of foods.1-2 However, not everyone is able to maintain a diet that is rich in choline and some people may still need to supplement their choline intake, even if they are eating well. In these cases, a dietary supplement containing choline may be helpful.
The Role of Choline in Baby’s Development
A 2018 study by Cornell University found compelling evidence that pregnant women who consume more choline could be giving their baby an edge when it comes to cognitive abilities. The study took 26 women in the final three months of pregnancy and divided them into two groups. The first half consumed 480 milligrams of choline per day, slightly more than the current recommended daily intake of 450 milligrams for pregnant teens and pregnant women. The second half consumed 930 milligrams of choline daily, more than double the current recommended daily intake.1
After the babies were born, the researchers tested information-processing speed and visuospatial memory in the infants at 4, 7, 10 and 13 months of age. Infants from both groups showed cognitive benefits; however, the infants from the second group showed significantly faster information processing speeds when compared to the first group. This suggests that the current recommended daily intake of choline may not be enough to produce optimal cognitive abilities in offspring. Interestingly, the current daily choline recommendation is based on studies done in men to prevent liver dysfunction.1
How Much Choline Do You and Your Baby Need?
The current recommended daily intake of choline still sits around 450 milligrams per day for
pregnant teens and women. However, the recommended amounts differ by age and sex.2 According to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements, the daily recommended breakdown is as follows2:
- Birth to 6 months – 125 mg
- Infants 7 to 12 months – 150 mg
- Children 1 to 3 years – 200 mg
- Children 4 to 8 years – 250 mg
- Children 9 to 13 years – 375 mg
- Men 19+ years – 550 mg
- Teen boys 14 to 18 years – 550 mg
- Teen girls 14 to 18 years – 400 mg
- Women 19+ years – 425 mg
- Pregnant teens and women – 450 mg
- Breastfeeding teens and women – 550 mg
If you are concerned about your intake of choline, talk to a nutritionist or your doctor. A healthy, varied diet of lean meats, dairy products and vegetables can do wonders, but a dietary supplement or prenatal vitamin may provide added benefits.
Dietary supplements containing only choline are available, but some multivitamins also contain choline. Expecting mothers should talk to their doctors about prenatal vitamins containing choline. The Prenate® Family line of prenatal vitamins offers a wide selection of nutritional supplements designed for the changing needs of expecting mothers. Contact your health care provider to discuss the potential benefits of adding a daily prescription prenatal vitamin to your routine.