Food and Behaviour Research

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An overview of evidence for a causal relationship between dietary availability of choline during development and cognitive function in offspring.

McCann JC, Hudes M, Ames BN. (2006) Neurosci Biobehav Rev.  30(5): 696-712. Epub 2006 Feb 28 

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This review is part of a series intended for non-specialists that will provide an overview of evidence for causal relationships between micronutrient deficiencies and brain function. Here, we review 34 studies in rodents linking the availability of choline during gestation and perinatal development to neurological function or performance of offspring in cognitive and behavioral tests. Experimental designs, major results, and statistical criteria are summarized in Tables 1-4. Based on our reading of the literature, the evidence suggests that choline supplementation during development results in improved performance of offspring in cognitive or behavioral tests, and in changes in a variety of neurological functional indicators: (1) enhanced performance was observed, particularly on more difficult tasks; (2) increases (choline supplementation) or decreases (choline deficiency) were observed in electrophysiological responsiveness and size of neurons in offspring; and (3) supplementation resulted in some protection against adverse effects of several neurotoxic agents (including alcohol) in offspring. Discussion topics include methodological issues, such as the importance of independent replication, causal criteria, and uncertainties in interpreting test results.