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Prenatal with Choline: What Is It and Do You Need It?

Prenatal with Choline: What Is It and Do You Need It?

 

Throughout pregnancy, you are an important source of nutrition for a rapidly growing new life.

Therefore, you need to support yourself with enough nutrients to fuel your body and keep your baby healthy as they grow.

At this time, your obstetrician-gynecologist, or OB-GYN, might have recommended folate and iron, which are great.

However, apart from these prenatal vitamins, there’s one important nutrient that you should also be taking throughout your pregnancy.

We’re talking about the unknown essential nutrient that few people, even health professionals, know: choline.(1,2)

You see, most doctors focus on folate to support fetal neural tube formation development.

Yet recent observational studies suggest that choline is equally critical in neurodevelopment and many other crucial functions in every stage of your pregnancy journey— from preconception and pregnancy to breastfeeding and introducing solids to your infant.(3)

So, what is choline and why should you not skip this nutrient during your pregnancy?

What is Choline?

Choline is an essential nutrient found in foods and dietary supplements.

It helps in the production of phosphatidylcholine and acetylcholine.

Phosphatidylcholine is an important component of cell membranes, while acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in memory, learning, attention, and involuntary muscle movement.(4)

In addition, choline is the primary dietary source of methyl groups, which regulate the DNA of all cells.

This helps support the optimal development of the fetal brain.(5)

Not only that, but there is also an increased demand for choline in late pregnancy, especially during the second trimester, for brain formation.(6,7)

While you can get choline by eating foods such as milk, eggs, fish, meat, and vegetables, our modern diets cannot provide the body with the sufficient amount of choline it needs.(8)

Moreover, although the liver can naturally produce choline, 90% of Americans still aren't getting the recommended daily amount of it.

In fact, even high-income countries with access to lots of fresh foods still have choline insufficiency.(9)

It’s no wonder why the American Medical Association (AMA) has advised that prenatal vitamins should contain “evidence-based” amounts of choline, and why the American Academy of Pediatrics requires pediatricians to provide pregnant women and young children with adequate intake of this “brain-building” nutrient.(10,11)

Thinking of getting choline? Here are the science-backed benefits of choline for pregnancy.

6 Benefits of Choline in Pregnancy

Choline is involved in many important biological processes throughout fertility and your pregnancy journey. Below are six major reasons why you should include choline supplements in your daily vitamin intake.

Supports Brain Development

Choline is an indispensable nutrient for the development of the fetal brain, and a deficiency may lead to long-term cognitive problems in the child.

It is critical in the development of the hippocampus — a part of the brain responsible for learning, memory, and attention.

In fact, children whose mothers have high levels of choline in their blood have higher intelligence test scores according to a study published in the Journal of Plos One.(12)

Similarly, another study published in the Oxford Journal showed that 7-year-olds whose mothers have high levels of choline during pregnancy perform better in visual memory tests.(13)

This is because choline is necessary for the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is important in the regulation of memory, mood, and intelligence and for the process that synthesizes DNA, which is critical for brain function and development. (14,15)

Therefore, if you want to encourage healthy fetal brain development, supplementing with choline can be very important.

Supports Liver Function

Choline plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy liver during pregnancy.

A choline deficiency can lead to the development of fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which can ultimately result in liver dysfunction. While NAFLD is common in overweight and obese populations, around 40% of expectant mothers and their fetuses are also at risk of developing NAFLD.(16)

Without adequate intake of choline, the liver cannot produce important membranes that help signal molecules, like acetylcholine, which is necessary for normal function.

Not only that, but during pregnancy, a woman’s body provides nutrients to her baby from the liver.

Taking choline supplements can help your liver release omega-3 fatty acids and DHA into the bloodstream.(17)

DHA is important for the development of the fetal brain and eyes. In fact, this structural fat represents 93% of all omega-3 fats in the retina and 97% in the brain.(18)

In a study published by Cornell University, researchers worked with 30 women in their gestational weeks between 12 to 16. The group was divided into two.(19)

The first group was given 500 milligrams of choline per day and 50 milligrams per day of choline labeled with deuterium. The second group, which served as a control, took 25 milligrams per day of just the labeled choline.

Both groups were also given a 200-milligram DHA supplement daily and consumed a normal diet.

After the study, results showed that a chemical reaction took place, wherein choline donated small molecules known as methyl groups. These molecules interacted with another molecule, creating phosphatidylethanolamine.

Phosphatidylethanolamine, through a biological pathway, is converted to phosphatidylcholine, which has an abundance of DHA.

Once released, DHA can be delivered into all the tissues of the body to support the visual, neurological, and cognitive development of babies.

Supports Neural Tube Development

The neural tube is a hollow structure that goes from the brain to the spinal cord.

The anterior end develops into the brain and the posterior portion becomes the spinal cord.

This is developed in the early stages of pregnancy, before women even realize they are pregnant.

Healthy levels of choline in women are important in the healthy development of neural tubes in fetuses. Otherwise, babies might be at risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, at birth.(20)

A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that low intake of prenatal choline can double the risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect.(21)

Therefore, to maintain healthy neural tube development, take prenatal vitamins with choline, folate, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12, which are also essential in neural tube development.

Supports Positive Mental Health

Many mental health disorders, have a huge genetic component.

However, if you have concerns due to genetic reasons, a study published in the Journal of Shanghai Archive Psychiatry showed that taking choline during pregnancy can help support a child’s brain and mental health development. (22)

Researchers experimented on mice that showed symptoms of mental decline.

There were two groups. The first group of mice was given choline supplementation for different lengths of time, while the control group was not provided with any.

The result?

The group of mice taking choline during pregnancy gave birth to pinkies with healthy spatial memory compared to the placebo group.

This is because choline supplementation helps convert homocysteine to methionine, supporting healthy aging processes.

Elevated homocysteine levels can double the risk of developing mental health issues.

Not only that, but in the study, it also helped with microglia activation, supporting healthy levels of amyloid beta (Aβ) load for healthycognitive deficits in the mice.

Even more interesting is that since mice breed faster than humans, the researchers were able to study more than one generation.

They found out that choline affected the expression of 27 genes. These genes were enriched for histone modifications, inflammation, and neuronal death functional classes.

In other words, the next generation of mice, even though they had never taken or been exposed to choline, showed better spatial memory.

The improvements were because of choline’s ability to support healthy brain homocysteine levels in both generations.

Make sure to add choline to your diet. Not only can it help make your baby’s brain healthy and sharp, but also that of your grandkids and great-grandkids, too!

Support Healthy Placenta for Mothers

During pregnancy, the majority of choline in the mother’s body is delivered to the placenta and growing infant.

This lowers the choline levels in the mother’s system.(23)

Adequate amounts of choline, especially during the third trimester, can support healthy blood pressure during pregnancy.

Apart from that, choline is essential in the placenta’s function, as it’s what moderates the transport of nutrients and oxygen to the growing fetus.(24)

The placenta’s function depends on the development of the vasculature, which is responsible for sufficient blood flow to the developing fetus.

However, insufficient vascularization may affect the functional processes of the placenta, which may lead to impaired fetal growth, including intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and preeclampsia in mothers.(25)

In fact, growing studies show that taking prenatal vitamins with choline is important in the functional processes of the placenta, including the transport of micronutrients and support of healthy levels of inflammation.

In data gathered from rodent studies, prenatal choline increases the size of the placental labyrinth, where you can find the villi.

Villi is where nutrients are transported from the mother’s blood to the fetus.(26)

Therefore, you should take choline to maintain a healthy placenta, supporting healthy blood pressure during pregnancy and giving your baby the nutrients it needs to grow healthily.(27)

How much choline for pregnancy?

Do you suspect you’re pregnant? Then it’s time to start taking choline supplements or adding choline-rich foods to your diet.

The U.S Food and Drug Administration recommend that pregnant and lactating women take at least 550 mg of choline each day.(28,29)

As your pregnancy progresses, your need for choline also increases.(30)

Taking 550-900 mg of choline has no reported side effects in healthy pregnant women.(31)

However, make sure not to exceed 3,500 mg of this nutrient per day, as doing so can lead to fishy body odor, excessive sweating, vomiting, low blood pressure, and liver damage.(32)

It can also make you susceptible to asthma-like allergic airway disease and colitis when combined with prenatal protein restriction.(33,34)

That’s why it’s best to buy prenatal vitamins with choline only from reliable brands, such as Seeking Health, to make sure you’re getting the right amount in the purest form.

Where to Get Choline

Choline is available in many common foods like eggs, red meat, liver, salmon, chicken breast, and legumes.(35)

Eating one whole egg can provide you with 147 mg of choline. This means that eating 2 eggs per day can cover at least 54% of your recommended daily intake.

Do not discard the egg yolk, as it contains the highest concentration of choline.

Below are examples of foods with the corresponding amount of choline in mg that you can get per serving size:(36)

  • 1 whole fried egg = 146 mg choline
  • 3 oz lean ground beef = 112 mg choline
  • ¼ cup peanuts = 24 mg choline
  • 1 cup lima beans = 75 mg choline
  • 1 cup cooked pork shoulder = 108 mg choline
  • 1 cup soybeans = 39 mg choline

If you’re a vegetarian, you should eat plant-based foods that have high levels of choline, like soy or peanuts, to meet your daily needs.(37)

Choline is also available as an over-the-counter supplement.

If you’re taking prenatal vitamins, understand that not all contain choline. If they do, they likely don’t meet the required amount.(38)

In this case, it's best to take choline supplements along with your prenatal vitamins and choline-rich diet so that you and your baby can maximize the benefits this nutrient can provide.

You see, your body is hard at work during pregnancy. You're growing an entire human being.

You need extra support to keep your baby healthy as they grow and develop in your womb.

If you’re looking for a reliable supplement brand that offers pure and scientifically formulated nutrients, then Seeking Health’s prenatal supplements with choline are great options.

We understand how important a healthy pregnancy is for you, so we guarantee that our prenatal supplements with choline are free from GMOs and gluten and are healthy for you and your child.

Looking for the perfect high-quality prenatal choline supplement to support your baby’s growing needs?

Check Seeking Health’s list of prenatal vitamins with choline. Shop now!

References

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20656095/
  2. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Choline-HealthProfessional/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24476840/
  4. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Choline-HealthProfessional/
  5. https://mhnpjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40748-022-00139-9/tables/6
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24132975/
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  8. https://www.scielo.br/j/rn/a/9qGp3DFgHZK75qjpBvRb33z/?lang=en
  9. https://www.proquest.com/docview/2464211611?accountid=13552&parentSessionId=hnDqCp59Fhvce%2Fl0K9dq%2BlLu%2FyxZzbtBCZmiHYWElOQ%3D&pq-origsite=primo
  10. https://wire.ama-assn.org/ama-news/ama-backs-global-health-experts-calling-infertility-disease
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29358479/
  12. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0043448
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3676149/
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3252552/
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25182020/
  16. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21059658/
  17. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000291652200096X?via%3Dihub
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2621042/#:~:text=Docosahexaenoic%20acid%20(DHA)%20is%20a,to%2018%20months%20of%20life.
  19. https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2022/01/choline-during-pregnancy-impacts-childrens-sustained-attention
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27886045
  21. https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/160/2/102/76495
  22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26120259
  23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2441939/#S7title
  24. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28931587/
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  27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6722688/#sec6-nutrients-11-01823title
  28. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/nutrition-during-pregnancy
  29. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Choline-HealthProfessional/
  30. https://mhnpjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40748-022-00139-9
  31. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23134891/
  32. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23193625/
  33. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21296867/
  34. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18802477/
  35. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/nutrition-during-pregnancy
  36. https://www.nal.usda.gov/sites/www.nal.usda.gov/files/choline.pdf
  37. https://journals.lww.com/nutritiontodayonline/fulltext/2018/11000/choline__the_underconsumed_and_underappreciated.4.aspx
  38. https://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/healthy-eating-before-having-a-baby.aspx#

This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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