Food and Behaviour Research

Donate Log In

Higher Gestational Choline Levels in Maternal Infection Are Protective for Infant Brain Development

Freedman R, Hunter SK, Law AJ, Wagner BD, D'Alessandro A, Christians, U, Noonan K, Wyrwa A, Hoffman MC (2019) J Pediatr 2019 Mar. 

Web URL: Read this and related abstracts on here


To assess whether maternal choline decreases effects of mothers' infections on fetal brain circuit development and on expression of infant behavior at 1 year of age.

Study design: 
A cross-sectional study was conducted in a public hospital obstetrics and midwifery service, with prenatal assessments of maternal infection, C-reactive protein, and choline level and postnatal assessments of cerebral neuronal inhibition in 162 newborns. At 1 year, 136 parents completed reports of their child's behavior.

Maternal infection at 16 weeks of gestation, experienced by 41% of mothers, raised mean maternal C-reactive protein (d’ = 0.47, P = .002) and decreased the development of cerebral inhibition of auditory response at 1 month of age (d’ = 0.39, P < .001). Decreased newborn cerebral inhibition manifested as decreased behavioral self-regulation at 1 year.
Greater choline levels in mothers with infections were associated with improved newborn inhibition of auditory cerebral response, mitigating the effect of infection (β = −0.34 [95% CI, −5.35 to −0.14], P = .002).
At 1 year of age, children of mothers with infection and greater gestational choline levels had improved development of self-regulation, approaching the level of children of mothers without infection (β = 0.29 [95% CI 0.05-0.54], P = .03).

Greater maternal choline, recommended by the American Medical Association as a prenatal supplement, is associated with greater self-regulation among infants who experienced common maternal infections during gestation. Behavioral problems with diminished self-regulation often lead to referrals to pediatricians and might lead to later mental illness.


See the associated news article: