Doubling Prenatal Choline Boosts Brain Function in Children

Barbara Strupp of Cornell University led a team that compared the attention performance of children whose mothers consumed the (approximate) recommended amount of choline to mothers taking twice the recommended dose.

The study provides more evidence to support significant increases in daily prenatal intake with results suggesting increased performance with higher choline intake.

Professor Strupp said“By demonstrating that maternal choline supplementation in humans produces attentional benefits for offspring similar to those observed in animals, our results suggest that the full range of cognitive and neuroprotective benefits demonstrated in rodents can also be observed in the man.”

Current recommendations for daily choline intake (450 milligrams (mg)), including those for pregnant women, are based on levels needed to prevent liver dysfunction in men, the scientists explain.

study design

The cohort study included a seven-year follow-up of 20 children born to women who participated in a randomized, double-blind study of choline feeding during the third trimester of pregnancy and involved 4,315 trials to assess the effects of the contribution of choline on the cognition of the child. .

The children were predominantly white and non-Hispanic male, and most had completed first grade at the time of the test.

Most pregnant women were highly educated, and the majority had completed a bachelor’s degree or higher.

A non-significant trend indicated a slightly higher level of education for mothers in the 480 mg choline/d group compared to the 930 mg choline/d group (Fisher’s exact test); the treatment groups were otherwise similar in terms of demographic and birth characteristics.

Pregnant women were randomized to consume 480 mg of choline/d (approximate Adequate Intake [AI] recommended) or 930 mg of choline/day during the third trimester.

Sustained attention was assessed in children at age seven using a cue detection task (visual cues) that showed benefits of maternal choline supplementation.


On average, children correctly identified the presence of signals in 78% of all signal trials and correctly noted the absence of a signal in 78% of no-signal trials.

Children whose mothers consumed 930 mg choline/d more accurately identified signals, while correctly rejecting non-signals, compared to children whose mothers consumed 480 mg choline/d.

The researchers noted that the children in the higher maternal choline group showed superior performance on the sustained attention task (SAT score) and a superior ability to maintain correct cue detections (knocks) throughout the session. 12 minutes, indicating improved sustained attention.

The team concluded that the results are consistent with those from a mouse model and suggest that many of the other benefits of maternal choline supplementation documented for rodents can also translate to humans.

Benefits of Choline

Little is known about the functional effects of maternal choline intake on infant cognition in humans or the level of maternal intake needed to fully support fetal neurological development, although researchers have established that demands Physiological choline levels increase dramatically during pregnancy due to the many roles of choline in fetal development.

The Report Explained: “Maternal choline supplementation is broadly neuroprotective for the offspring in conditions as diverse as fetal or early postnatal alcohol exposure, prenatal stress exposure, autism, Down syndrome, epilepsy , Rett syndrome, cognitive aging and Alzheimer’s disease.”

Choline also helps regulate early brain development, including “attentional function,” but maternal deprivation can lead to long-lasting cognitive impairment.

Source: The FASEB magazine


Prenatal choline supplementation improves infant sustained attention: a 7-year follow-up of a randomized controlled feeding trial’

Authors: Charlotte L. Bahnfleth, Barbara J. Strupp, Marie A. Caudill, Richard L. Canfield

Patricia J. Callender