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

Expectant mothers can mitigate the impact of marijuana on baby's brain development - with more choline

CU Anschutz Medical Campus


Research finds that choline, an essential micronutrient, can prevent fetal brain developmental problems that can occur when mothers use marijuana while pregnant.


This study found negative effects on brain development for the children of mothers who used marijuana (cannabis) during their pregnancy - unless those mothers had good dietary intakes of choline.

Choline is an essential component of cell membranes, and also plays key roles in the metabolism and transport of fats, normal cell signalling, and gene expression and regulation, among many other functions. (It also works in synergy with Vitamins B6, B12 and folate, and with omega-3 DHA - so a lack of choline can increase deficiency risks for these nutrients).

Choline is vital for normal brain development, and yet previous research has shown that the diets most mothers-to-be in the US, UK and similar developed countries don't provide enough, as the main dietary sources are liver and other organ meats, eggs, and other meats and fish - i.e. animal foods. (Of plant foods, only soy provides any meaninful amount of choline).

As the researchers explain in this article - most prenatal supplements still don't contain choline, and awareness of its importance is low even among health professionals, let alone the public. This is largely because humans can make a little bit of choline (albeit not enough even to prevent fatty liver developing within weeks if it's absent from the diet) - and it is still not classed along with vitamins and essential minerals as a 'true' dietary essential - which all the evidence shows it is.

In animals, choline deficiences in early life are well-documented as causing lifelong impairments in brain development and cognition - including dementia.

In humans, maternal deficiencies of choline in pregnancy are strongly linked with fetal alcohol syndrome and other neurodevelopmental disorders - and clinical trials have shown clear benefits for infants' visual and cognitive developent from maternal supplementation. See:

These new findings indicate that adequate supplies of choline may also prevent childhood disorders of brain development, behaviour and cognition that may result from maternal use of marijuana - although clinial trials would be needed to provide definitive evidence of cause-and effect.

For details of this research, see:

See also:

For more information on choline, see:

31 July 2019 - MedicalXpress

A team of researchers led by members of the University of Colorado School of Medicine at the Anschutz Medical Campus found that choline, an essential micronutrient, can prevent fetal brain developmental problems that can occur when mothers use marijuana while pregnant.

The findings are critical because marijuana use can negatively impact fetal brain development and early childhood behavior, such as increased impulsivity and memory dysfunction.

The study was published today in Psychological Medicine.

"In Colorado, it's common for women to use marijuana before they know they're pregnant and some continue to use as a natural remedy for morning sickness, depression and anxiety," said Camille Hoffman, MD, MSCS, associate professor of maternal fetal medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine. "In this study, we found that maternal marijuana use begins to negatively impact the fetal brain at an earlier stage in pregnancy than we expected. However, we also found that eating choline-rich foods or taking choline as a supplement may protect the child from potential harm."

Fifteen percent of 201 mothers in the study used marijuana both before and beyond 10 weeks gestation.

Infants of mothers who continued to use marijuana beyond 10 weeks had decreased cerebral nervous system (brain) inhibition at one month of age. Decreased brain inhibition this early in development can relate to problems in attention and social function. Later in life, this can translate into a predisposition to conditions like substance abuse, depression and psychosis.

In addition, infants exposed to prenatal marijuana beyond 10 weeks gestation had lower "regulation" scores at 3 months of age. This can cause decreased reading readiness at age 4, decreased conscientiousness and organization as well as increased distractibility as far out as age 9.

These adverse effects in the infant were not seen if women had higher gestational choline in the early second trimester.

Overall, results showed maternal choline levels correlated with the children's improved duration of attention, cuddliness and bonding with parents.

"We already know that prenatal vitamins improve fetal and child development, but currently most prenatal vitamins do not include adequate amounts of the nutrient choline despite the overwhelming evidence of its benefits in protecting a baby's brain health.

"We hope that this research is a step towards more OB-GYNs, midwives and other prenatal care providers encouraging pregnant women to include choline in their prenatal supplement regimen,
" Hoffman adds.

This study is the first to detect central nervous system effects of marijuana in human newborns and it identifies a vulnerable gestational period for the impact of marijuana on fetal brain development that is earlier than anticipated—as early as the end of the first trimester. Usually reporting in studies are retrospective and don't look at the effects of marijuana ingestion at different trimesters.

Marijuana use was assessed during pregnancy from women who later brought their newborns for study. Mothers were informed about choline and other prenatal nutrients and advised to avoid alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and other drug use. Maternal serum choline was measured at 16 weeks' gestation.