A new study has been published this week regarding the potential health benefits an increased Choline intake during pregnancy could have on the baby´s development. The study published in the FASEB journal, indicated that a intake of higher than normal levels of dietary choline (most commonly found in meat,wheatgerm and eggs) during pregnancy may lower and infant´s vulnerability to mental health disturbances as well as chronic diseases such as Hypertension later in life. As mentioned in one of my previous posts, dietary choline can affect epigenetic markers, as choline donates methyl groups to foetal DNA leading to hypermethylation. This process of hypermethylation leads to the switching off of genes that have an impact on long-term health. Dr Pressman from the University of Rochester Medical Centre USA indictaed that what was of particluar interest was the discovery that the affected epigenetic markers were those that regulate hypothalamic-Pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) which controls all hormone metabolism in the body including the production of the hormone cortisol. Recent studies on high cortisol levels have linked stress with metabolic disorders such as insulin resistance. The research team suggest that an increased dietary Choline intake during pregnancy may lead to a more stable HPA axis resulting in reduced levels of cortisol in the fetus. So what does a higher intake actually mean? The US recommended dietary intake for choline is around 425mg/d (Fischer et al 2007), in this particular study the intake of the third trimester females was 930mg/d. Dr Steven Zeisel, a leader in the field of Nutrigenomics and Choline has published numerous studies on SNP´s that affect choline requirements. If you are interested in what this amounts to in a typical day, click here to add up how much you would typically need to reach the recommended choline intake. I would have liked to see what the study subjects´diets looked like per day, knowing what I felt like in my third trimester. Whilst this study contributes to the knowledge in the field of Choline and genetic expression, we would still need to learn more, before the science is translated into clinical practice for nutritionists and dietitians. Whole eggs, whether functional (with added Vitamin D or Omega-3) or traditional still remain one of the richest sources of choline, with the additional benefits of being vitamin and mineral -rich. Recent changes to heart health recommendations means that there is no restriction in terms of egg consumption for any patient group including those with non-familial high cholesterol levels. In particular, it highlights the fact that with the popularity of egg-white only shakes and meals, consumers should seriously consider the long-term impact on their health of eliminating this very affordable nutrient rich food as the scientific evidence is mounting.
Resources: Zeisel SH (2008) Genetic polymorphisms in methyl-group metabolism and epigenetics:Lessons from humans and mouse models. Brain research 1237 (2008) 5-11