Food and Behaviour Research

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Choline - A Neglected Nutrient Vital for Healthy Brains - BOOK HERE

Maternal choline supplementation during the third trimester of pregnancy improves infant information processing speed: a randomized, double-blind, controlled feeding study

Caudill MA, Strupp BJ, Muscalu L, Nevins JEH, Canfield RL (2018) FASEB J.  Apr;32(4): 2172-2180. doi: 10.1096/fj.201700692RR. Epub 2018 Jan 5. 

Web URL: Read this and related abstracts on PubMed here. Free full text of this article is available online.


Rodent studies demonstrate that supplementing the maternal diet with choline during pregnancy produces life-long cognitive benefits for the offspring.

In contrast, the two experimental studies examining cognitive effects of maternal choline supplementation in humans produced inconsistent results, perhaps because of poor participant adherence and/or uncontrolled variation in intake of choline or other nutrients.

We examined the effects of maternal choline supplementation during pregnancy on infant cognition, with intake of choline and other nutrients tightly controlled. Women entering their third trimester were randomized to consume, until delivery, either 480 mg choline/d (
n = 13) or 930 mg choline/d (n = 13). 

Infant information processing speed and visuospatial memory were tested at 4, 7, 10, and 13 mo of age (
n = 24). Mean reaction time (RT) averaged across the four ages was significantly faster for infants born to mothers in the 930 (vs. 480) mg choline/d group.

This result indicates that maternal consumption of approximately twice the recommended amount of choline during the last trimester improves infant information processing speed. Furthermore, for the 480-mg choline/d group, there was a significant linear effect of exposure duration (infants exposed longer showed faster RTs), suggesting that even modest increases in maternal choline intake during pregnancy may produce cognitive benefits for offspring.


This randomised controlled clinical trial showed supplementation of pregnant mothers with choline at twice the recommended daily intake (which the placebo group received) led to significant benefits for the visual and cognitive development of infants during their first year of life.

Animal studies have already shown that adequate dietary choline is absolutely essential for normal brain development - and has lifelong effects on brain function and cognition - but good clinical trial evidence in humans has been relatively lacking.

70-90% of pregnant mothers typically consume less than the current 'Adequate Intake' of choline - and this was the level provided to the placebo group in this study.

These important new findings therefore indicate that current choline intakes are seriously suboptimal for supporting children's brain development - and that more needs to be done to raise awareness of the imporance of dietary choline among health professionals and the general public. 

See the associated news article, with additional FAB comments:

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