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The Buzz: Choline Studies, Fetal Brain Development, and COVID-19 Relevance

Updated: Jun 22, 2020

Written by Moriah Thomason, PhD June 17, 2020


Do higher choline levels protect the fetal brain?


New studies provide evidence that higher choline levels appear to mitigate the adverse effects of the inflammation on a child’s behavior at 3 months of age.


In a recent study, Robert Freedman and colleagues measured maternal choline at 16-weeks gestation in 96 women; approximately half of whom had contracted respiratory infections during pregnancy. They measured the essential nutrient choline in the mother’s serum

(the portion of the blood that does not include clotting factors) and used the

Infant Behavior Questionnaire (IBQ)-Revised Short Form to measure infant development at 3 months age.


These researchers found that mothers with respiratory viral infections in early gestation were more likely to be depressed and anxious, based on the Center for Epidemiological Studies of Depression (CESD) and State-Trait Anxiety Inventory-State (STAI-S) inventories, p = 0.002 and p = 0.02, respectively).


Within the group of mothers that had viral infections, higher choline was associated with increased regulation, particularly attention. Additionally, in higher choline mothers there was not a difference between infection and non-infection groups on infant Regulation and Attention. Maternal depression and anxiety were not related to infant IBQ outcomes. The increased significance of effects in mothers with infection in this study may represent an interaction between the adverse effect of the infection and the positive effect of higher choline levels.