Dr. Gary Shaw, a research director of the California Birth Defects Monitoring Program reported in a paper in the American Journal of Epidemiology (2004), that women whose daily choline intake was greater than 498mg had about half the risk of delivering a baby with a neural-tube defect, compared with expectant mothers whose choline intake was 290mg or less. Surprisingly, this reduction occurred independently of intake of folic acid. “Many of us have been targeting folic acid as the way to prevent birth defects, and this has certainly worked, ” Dr. Shaw says. ” But issues remain as to why it doesn’t work in everyone.”
In pregnancy, choline plays a critical role in brain development by helping regulate the transport of nutrients into and out of cells. It also forms acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in learning and memory function, according to Dr. Steven Zeisel, a recognized expert in choline, who published his findings in the Journal of Neurochemistry (2004). Choline, a vitamin B-like compound, is found in high quantities in eggs, beef and chicken liver, wheat germ and soybeans. The National Academies of Science recommends nursing mothers increase choline intake to 550mg—the equivalence of two whole eggs.
*For more info on how choline helps during pregnancy, check Big Love, Low Risk: Your Guide to the Healthiest Pregnancy. You’ll also learn how Omega-3 fatty acids may decrease the risk of both post-partum depression and preterm labor.