Phosphatidylcholine supplementation in pregnant women consuming moderate-choline diets does not enhance infant cognitive function: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial1-3

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Choline is essential for fetal brain development, and it is not known whether a typical American diet contains enough choline to ensure optimal brain development.


The study was undertaken to determine whether supplementing pregnant women with phosphatidylcholine (the main dietary source of choline) improves the cognitive abilities of their offspring.


In a double-blind, randomized controlled trial, 140 pregnant women were randomly assigned to receive supplemental phosphatidylcholine (750 mg) or a placebo (corn oil) from 18 wk gestation through 90 d postpartum. Their infants (n = 99) were tested for short-term visuospatial memory, long-term episodic memory, language development, and global development at 10 and 12 mo of age.


The women studied ate diets that delivered ˜360 mg choline/d in foods (˜ 80% of the recommended intake for pregnant women, 65% of the recommended intake for lactating women). The phosphatidylcholine supplements were well tolerated. Groups did not differ significantly in global development, language development, short-term visuospatial memory, or long-term episodic memory.


Phosphatidylcholine supplementation of pregnant women eating diets containing moderate amounts of choline did not enhance their infants' brain function. It is possible that a longer follow-up period would reveal late-emerging effects. Moreover, future studies should determine whether supplementing mothers eating diets much lower in choline content, such as those consumed in several low-income countries, would enhance infant brain development. This trial was registered at as NCT00678925. Am J Clin Nutr 2012;96:1465-72.

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