Choline Supplementation During Pregnancy Improves Brain Function throughout lifespan of child, and May Reduce Risk of Schizophrenia

Taking a nutrient called choline during pregnancy could "super-charge" children's brains for life, (providing a boost in IQ of 30 to 35%, and better memory) suggests a study in rats. Research has also suggested that the lower the IQ of the child, the greater the risk of developing schizophrenia later in life, and the poorer the outcome of the person who gets schizophrenia. This might indicate that if choline increases intelligence and memory in humans, that it could also lower the risk of schizophrenia for susceptible individuals.

Offspring born to pregnant rats (which are commonly used for human drug testing because of the genetic and functional similarity of their brains to humans) given the Choline supplement were known to be faster learners with better memories (scientists measured this by examining how fast the rats' brain neurons transmitted electrical signals). Researchers believe that their results in the rats could translate to humans, and the US Institute of Medicine added choline to the list of essential nutrients, particularly for pregnant women, in its 2003 recommendations. While no research has yet been done on the ability for Choline to reduce rates of schizophrenia, the research done on Choline supplementation during pregnancy suggests that it might help. Choline is a natural substance found in low doses in eggs and other foods, so the risk of supplementation with this vitamin currently appears low. There is little information on how much choline women currently take. "But don't be afraid of chicken eggs," researchers suggest.

However, some foods rich in choline should be avoided during pregnancy. For example, liver is also high in retinol which can cause birth defects. And certain choline-rich fish like swordfish and tuna can also have a high mercury content, which is harmful to fetuses.

The implications for humans are profound, said the researchers, because the collective data on choline suggests that simply augmenting the diets of pregnant women with this one nutrient could affect their children's lifelong learning and memory. In theory, choline could boost cognitive function, diminish age-related memory decline, and reduce the brain's vulnerability toxic insults.

The Duke group is part of a national team of scientists who are exploring the benefits of prenatal choline supplementation on learning and memory. This ongoing research has been instrumental in the Institute of Medicine's decision to elevate choline to the status of an essential nutrient for humans -- particularly pregnant and nursing women, the scientists said.

See new March, 2005 Choline Upate for more information.

Action: Women who are pregnant cmay take Choline supplements to improve the potential health of their baby, and potentially reduce rates of schizophrenia. Some groups are recommending daily doses of up to 2,500 mg to 3,500 mg per day during the third trimester of pregnancy (one dose of approximately 1gram, three times per day). 3,500 mg/day is the maximum recommended choline supplementation level according to government (National Academy of Sciences) recommendations, The New Harvard Guide to Women's Health and other sources.

Some of our community members have have had good luck (prompt service and good prices) with the Now Foods products - , Now Foods "Choline & Inositol " and Twinlab "Choline & Inositol" vitamins purchased from - but we encourage you to shop around for the best deal for you and we have no affiliation with any vendors of supplements. We must be particularly careful in purchasing vitamin supplements because it is an entirely unregulated industry and many less than reputable organizations sell products that do not actually contain the specified doses or have other ingredients - this seems like a particular problem with vitamins coming from Canada. We recommend that any source you choose have a certified "GMP" (Good Manufacturing Practices) certification and approval. (Look for the GMP stamp on the label). Avoid purchasing from Non-GMP companies - while they may be cheaper, you have (in our opinion) a lower chance of getting what you want from them.

(Please note that there are no studies that the schizophrenia researchers we are in contact with are aware of that support the idea that any type of vitamin will cure schizophrenia. There are currently no cures for schizophrenia.)

More Information: Physician's Desktop Reference Entry on "Choline"

Supporting Research (a sample):



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