If pregnant women are alerted to their needs for folic acid (or vitamin B9 as we prefer to call it at Boome), they are more rarely aware of the essential role that choline plays during pregnancy. It's time to fix it: learn everything about Choline from A to Z, let's go!
What exactly is choline?
Of organic origin, choline is neither a vitamin nor a mineral salt, it is an amino acid derivative .
Its scientific name (hydroxy-2-ethyl-trimethylazanium) will mean nothing to you, but the origin of the word choline is, however, more informative: choline comes from the Greek kholê which means bile, because the German chemist Adolph Strecker discovered it, then extracted from a liver in 1868. Indeed, the human body can produce choline via the liver, but in very small quantities. It is therefore better to try to favor external contributions, whether in food or food supplements.
Choline is essential for pregnant women, but not only. Several scientific studies have proven that it has many benefits for the human body. Choline contributes to good liver health, it fights against mental disorders (notably anxiety and bipolarity) and it promotes cognitive abilities.
Clinical studies are also underway to study the benefits of choline in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease. Choline is the precursor of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter of memory and learning, and it would increase the concentration of acetylcholine in the brain.
The benefits of choline during pregnancy
Long unknown, the benefits of choline during pregnancy are now praised by scientists, particularly in Anglo-Saxon countries where it is systematically prescribed. Like folic acid, it would notably reduce the risk of neural tube defects (which will become the spinal cord and brain stem).
Reduced risk of neural tube defects and preeclampsia
Choline is necessary for the development of the placenta and the growth of fetal organs. It helps reduce the levels of homocysteine (intermediate amino acid in the metabolism of methionine) in the body. Excess homocysteine can lead to neural tube defects or congenital heart defects, which are thought to be due to poor development of the neural tube or heart.
Choline deficiency has also been linked to risks of preeclampsia, prematurity and very low birth weight of the baby.
Long-term cognitive benefits for your future child
At the level of the nervous system, choline would have cognitive and neuroprotective benefits because it helps maintain a good level of DHA (family of lipids) in the body. DHA contributes to normal brain function as well as the normal development of the child's brain during pregnancy and breastfeeding. DHA also participates in the synthesis of certain neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, an ally of our memory and our good nervous functioning. Acetylcholine does not occur naturally in foods. Our body is forced to make it and first needs choline to do so.
Choline supplementation could therefore play a role in almost all areas of a child's cognitive functions : good cognitive development, ability to maintain sustained attention and memory.
Maintaining good liver function
In 2012, European health authorities (EFSA, European Food Safety Authority and the European Commission) estimated that choline could contribute to the proper functioning of the liver.
Indeed, choline participates in lipid metabolism, by synthesizing the fatty substances found between cells. It thus actively contributes to detoxifying the liver, limiting the accumulation of fats and preventing cardiovascular diseases.
Observational studies have shown that a choline deficiency could contribute to the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NASH), which is more commonly called fatty liver disease.
Bonus: Choline is essential postpartum.
The choline needs of breastfeeding women increase considerably. It has a direct impact on the proper development of your child's memory and learning abilities.
How to increase your choline intake?
Ideally, there should be an intake of 450 mg per day during pregnancy and 550 mg per day while breastfeeding. Breastfeeding mothers have an even greater need for choline to meet the demands of the growing baby's body.
What foods are rich in choline?
> Eggs are the best source of choline , especially the yolk. Be careful, however, not to eat raw yolk during your pregnancy.
> The foods richest in choline are of animal origin but are not always suitable for pregnant women: so rather than animal liver, choose chicken breast, white fish or beef.
> Choline can also be found in smaller quantities in wheat germ, soy, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, red beans and even quinoa.
Despite a balanced diet and these nutritional intakes, it is difficult to achieve the necessary dose of choline. It is therefore recommended to choose a suitable supplement that meets your needs. At Boome, we have chosen to include a patented form of choline, Cognizin® (CDP-Choline) , in our Pregnancy vitamins . Cognizin® citicoline is synthesized via a patented natural fermentation process, guaranteeing stabilized and allergen-free citicoline. The effectiveness of citicoline Cognizin® in improving memory and intellectual performance has been clinically proven, in particular thanks to its neuro-protective and neuro-reparative properties.
Choline: finding the right balance between deficiency and excess
To be healthy, you know, it is important to stay measured. While choline deficiencies can cause risks, excessive intakes can also have adverse effects. Too much choline consumption, in other words more than 10g per day, can cause various symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea and various gastrointestinal disorders, excessive sweating or even bad body odor.
Note also that choline supplementation is not recommended in people with depression or Parkinson's disease, to avoid a possible worsening of symptoms .
If there is any doubt about a deficiency and before any supplementation, we recommend that you speak directly with your healthcare professional who will be able to advise you and prescribe the necessary tests.