Seven-year-old children performed better on a challenging task requiring sustained attention if their mothers consumed twice the recommended amount of choline during their pregnancy, a new Cornell study has found.
The study, which compared these children with those whose mothers had consumed the recommended amount of choline, suggests that the recommended choline intake for expectant mothers does not fully meet the needs of the fetal brain.
"Our findings suggest population-wide benefits of adding choline to a standard prenatal vitamin regimen," said the researchers.
Choline - found in egg yolks, lean red meat, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts and cruciferous vegetables - is absent from most prenatal vitamins, and more than 90% of expectant mothers consume less than the recommended amount.
Several decades of research using rodent models has shown that adding extra choline to the maternal diet produces long term cognitive benefits for the offspring.
Few studies with human subjects have evaluated the effect of maternal choline supplementation and this is the first study to follow the children to school age.