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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Abstract

Background:

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.

Objective:

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.

Design:

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.

Results:

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.

Conclusions:

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 clinicaltrials.gov as NCT00678925. Am J Clin Nutr 2012;96:1465-72.

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