Nutritional Importance of Choline for Brain DevelopmentZeisel SH, Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2004. Vol 23, No. 6, 621S-626S.
This review article discusses the importance of choline for the developing brain. Choline is an essential brain nutrient, which babies get from their mothers during pregnancy and through breast milk. Many women, however, do not have a sufficient supply of this vital nutrient to pass along to their child. The suggested adequate intake for women is 425 mg per day. Choline can be obtained from foods such as beef, pork, eggs, chicken liver, and dried soybeans.
Choline: Critical role during fetal development and dietary requirements in adultsZeisel SH. Annual Review of Nutrition. 2006, 26:229-250.
Choline is an essential dietary nutrient every cell needs for normal function. This review article looks at the importance of choline during pregnancy and the critical link it plays in healthy fetal brain development and function. The need for choline varies widely among individuals because of genetic differences.
The fetal origins of memory: The role of dietary choline in optimal brain developmentZeisel SH. The Journal of Pediatrics. 2006, 149(5 Suppl):S131-S136.Fetal nutrition can affect organ and brain function later in life. This review discusses the beginnings of brain function in the womb and the importance of choline during pregnancy and beyond. Choline is important not just for the pregnant mother, but also later for the infant as well. Choline may also enhance memory and learning functions and may also reduce prenatal stress on the fetus.
U.S. adults are not meeting recommended levels for fish and omega-3 fatty acid intake: results of an analysis using observational data from NHANES 2003-2008.Papanikolaou Y, et al. Nutrition Journal. 2014, 13:31.
Researchers looked at consumption of fish containing high levels of omega-3 among adults. Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey covering a recent 5-year period, they determined that most adults fall short of dietary omega 3 recommendations. They concluded that in such cases, omega-3 supplements may be beneficial.
Tissue levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids during early human development.Martinez M. Journal of Pediatrics. 1992, 120, 129..
Polyunsaturated fatty acids, or PUFAs, are highly concentrated in the brain. During fetal development and until 2 years of age, these concentrations show the fastest rate of increase during an individual’s lifetime. Of the PUFAs in the brain, DHA is found in the greatest quantity.
The effects of fish oil supplementation in pregnancy on breast milk fatty acid composition over the course of lactation: A randomised controlled trial.Dunstan JA, et al. (2007) Pediatric Research. 2007, 62, 689–694.
In a clinical trial, 98 pregnant women were given either an omega 3 DHA/EPA supplement or a placebo during the second half of pregnancy. The women who received the omega 3 had higher levels of it in their breast milk for a period of weeks. The benefit continued, as breastfed infants still had better DHA status at 1 year old. This was also associated with better infant hand-eye coordination.
Relationship between long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids at birth and motor function at 7 years of age.Bakker EC, et al. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2009, Apr;63(4):499-504.
Researchers looked at the relationship between cord blood levels of DHA and child motor skills at 7 years of age. Higher motor skill scores at age 7 were correlated with higher levels of DHA in cord blood at birth. Researchers conclude that a mother’s DHA consumption during pregnancy affects the development of her child’s motor skills during childhood.
Duration of pregnancy in relation to fish oil supplementation and habitual fish intake: A randomized trial with fish oil.Olsen, ML, et al. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2007, 61, 976-985.
This randomized clinical trial involved over 900 women with a history of preterm delivery, who had risk factors for preterm delivery, or who were otherwise considered high risk pregnancies. Women were divided into three groups: high, medium, and low amounts of fish consumption. Each group was divided into two subgroups: one subgroup received a fish oil supplement, while the other was given a placebo. Researchers found that most of the women with a history of pregnancy complications benefited from the fish oil supplement; they were less likely to deliver their babies early.
Effects of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in pregnancy on maternal and foetal erythrocyte fatty acid composition.Dunstan, JA, et al. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2004, 58, 429.
In this double blind, placebo controlled study involving pregnant women, researchers looked at the effects of fish oil on the fatty acid composition of red blood cells of both mothers and their babies. The women were given either fish oil containing DHA and EPA or a placebo for the second half of their pregnancies. The women who consumed the fish oil had higher amounts of EPA and DHA at the end of their pregnancies and for six weeks after delivery. The newborn babies whose mothers got the fish oil also had higher amounts of EPA and DHA, compared to babies in the control group.
Effect of docosahexaenoic acid supplementation of lactating women on the fatty acid composition of breast milk lipids and maternal and infant plasma phospholipidsJensen CL, et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2000, 71, 292S.
Breastfeeding mothers and their babies were divided into four groups. The first three groups were given daily DHA in either supplemental form or in foods; the fourth group was the control group. The DHA in mothers’ breast milk increased in the first three groups, as did their babies’ DHA. Researchers conclude that DHA supplementation increases both breast milk and blood levels of DHA; infants benefit from these increases as well.
Cognitive assessment of children at 2.5 years after maternal fish oil supplementation in pregnancy: A randomized controlled trial.Dunstan JA, et al. Archives of Disease in Childhood. Fetal and Neonatal Edition. 2008, 93, F45.
Researchers looked at the relationship between supplemental fish oil in pregnancy and cognitive development in children at 30 months. This double blind placebo controlled study involved 98 women and their children. Compared to a control group, children whose mothers received the fish oil had greater hand-eye coordination at age 2 ½. Researchers also noted that the fish oil supplementation was safe with no adverse effects.
Randomised controlled trial of effect of fish-oil supplementation on pregnancy duration.Olsen SF, et al. Lancet. 1992. Apr 25;339(8800):1003-7.Researchers looked at the effects of fish oil vs placebo on pregnancy duration. Over 500 healthy women in their 30th week of pregnancy participated in this study. The pregnancy duration of women who took 2.7 grams of fish oil per day was on average four days longer than women who took an olive oil placebo. In addition, their babies were an average of 107 grams heavier at birth. Researchers noted that in the longer pregnancies, the fish oil exerted no adverse effects on the baby or labor and delivery.Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation During Pregnancy.Greenberg JA, et al. Reviews in Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2008. 1(4):162-169.In this review article, researchers looked at the evidence for supplementing with omega-3 in pregnancy and concluded that it is beneficial. DHA is needed for babies’ brain and retinal development from the third trimester and through the first year and a half of life. EPA may be helpful in supporting DHA’s absorption. Pregnant women can benefit from additional omega-3 in pregnancy, but should limit consumption of seafood that may contain mercury. Omega-3 supplements are a good way to get the necessary DHA and EPA during pregnancy.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Pregnancy.Coletta JM, et al. Reviews in Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2010. 3(4):163-171.
This review article looked at the benefits of omega-3 consumption during pregnancy. Omega-3 consumption in pregnancy is associated with better neurodevelopment in children. The richest sources of omega-3 come from seafood and fish oil supplements, but seafood may be contaminated with mercury and other toxins. Both the FDA and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that pregnant women consume no more than two 6-ounce servings of seafood per week.
Cognitive enhancement by omega-3 fatty acids from childhood to old age: findings from animal and clinical studies.Luchtman DW, Song C. Neuropharmacology. 2013. Jan;64:550-65.
This review article looked at the research for omega-3 fatty acids and its effects on brain function. Omega-3 is essential for brain development, and may contribute to healthy cognitive function in individuals of all ages.
Perinatal Choline Effects on Neonatal Pathophysiology Related to Later Schizophrenia RiskRoss RG, et al. American Journal of Psychiatry. 2013. Vol 170, Issue 3, pp 290-298.
Researchers looked at the effects of prenatal and postnatal choline (in the form of phosphatidylcholine) given to infants. Compared to the placebo group, those in the choline group were much more likely to exhibit healthier, more appropriate responses when exposed to specific sound stimuli. Infants who do not exhibit the appropriate response are at greater risk for attention problems and potentially mental illness later in life.
Dietary Crude Lecithin Increases Systemic Availability of Dietary Docosahexaenoic Acid with Combined Intake in RatsVan Wijk, N et al., Lipids. (2016) 51:833-846.
In a series of two experiments, researchers looked at the effects of lecithin, a phospholipid, on absorption of omega-3 fatty acids. They found that consumption of this phospholipid increased blood levels of both DHA and EPA.
Fish Oil-Derived Fatty Acids in Pregnancy and Wheeze and Asthma in OffspringBisgaard, MD, et al. New England Journal of Medicine. 2016, 375:2530-2539.
Researchers gave supplemental omega-3 fish oil to pregnant women to evaluate the risk of wheezing and asthma in their babies. Over 700 women, divided into a treatment group and a control group, participated in this double-blind, placebo-controlled study beginning with the third trimester of pregnancy. After birth, the babies were followed for 5 years. Researchers determined that children born to mothers in the omega-3 fish oil group were 30% less likely to have wheezing and asthma compared to children born to mothers in the control group.