While you may not be familiar with this macronutrient, choline is something to consider during your pregnancy because it can significantly increase your child’s brain function later in life, according to a new study by Cornell researchers.
Unfortunately, most moms-to-be (certainly the ones I see) don’t tend to eat choline-rich foods—eggs, red meats, and liver—these don’t tend to rank high on maternity diets (or pregnancy cravings)! The investigators had two groups of moms follow identical diets during their last trimester of pregnancy, with one exception. Half of the women consumed 930 mg of choline per day, while the other group took half that amount (the established daily recommended amount for choline is 450 mg per day). To make sure that there were no outside influences the eating plan was tightly regulated by the researchers and neither group knew that they were taking the supplement. Infant response times were tested in the babies at 4, 7, 10, and 13 months of age with a computer program that had been previously shown to reliably correlate to higher IQ in childhood. The babies that scored the fastest response times had moms who’d gotten the double dose of choline.
Here’s how to make sure that your baby—and you—get all the choline you need during pregnancy.
What is choline?
This essential macronutrient plays multiple roles in the human body including processing neurotransmitters, aiding liver function, normal brain development, nerve function, muscle movement, energy, regulating metabolism, and maintaining hormone balance.
Common signs of deficiency: Fatty liver and hormone imbalances can be signs of inadequate choline.
How to get it from your food? Egg yolks, lean red meat, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts, and some cruciferous vegetables have high amounts of choline, but it can be hard to make sure that you’re getting enough. If you eat a diet that includes these foods, you can start off with a smaller supplement (see below). Can you get enough via nutrition? Or is it better to take a supplement?
You can get choline from foods above but it may be good to add 450- 500 mg choline in addition to these foods, and you can increase to 1 gram if not getting these foods.
Who should take choline? I recommend that my pregnant moms take choline supplements for all nine months. This is especially important for expecting moms with PCOS because they commonly show choline deficiencies.
How much choline should I take? Start with 450 to 500 mg a day if your diet contains eggs, red meat, and liver, if not take 900 mg to 1 gram of choline per day. It’s best to take choline on a full stomach and with some healthy dietary fats (olive oil, nuts, coconut oil).
Are there any adverse effects from too much choline: Stick to the recommended amounts. Too much of this macronutrient can sometimes trigger diarrhea and stomach cramps.
Is this safe for children to take? I don’t recommend that children take this supplement, but because of the poor nutrient environment that we live in today pregnant women do benefit from taking choline.