As a mama-to-be, you know that a healthy diet benefits both you and baby. Now, new research suggests the importance of making sure you get enough choline during pregnancy—which can help boost fetal brain power.
A Cornell University study published in the Journal of the Federal of American Societies for Experimental Biology found a sufficient intake of choline—a vitamin-like essential nutrient that helps with memory and muscle control—can boost your baby’s brain health.
The recommended amount of choline for pregnant women is 450 mg per day, as established by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Institute of Medicine. For the study, researchers divided 26 pregnant women into two groups, with one set of pregnant women receiving slightly more than the adequate daily intake (480 mg) and the other consuming more than double (930 mg).
After each mom gave birth, the scientists tested their newborn’s cognitive ability over the course of their first year of life. They found those babies in the second group processed information at significantly higher speeds.
Although the human study was small, the benefits on cognitive function were also replicated in tests with rodents.
But, despite the known cognitive benefits of choline, many pregnant women still consume less than the recommended amount, even though choline is vital during pregnancy, according to Healthline.
To up choline intake, pregnant women should include foods such as egg yolks, lean red meat, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts and cruciferous vegetables in their diets.
Eggs, by the way, may be key to better brain development for babies. A recent American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found infants aged 6 months and older who ate one egg a day had significantly higher blood concentrations of choline and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid that's a structural component of the brain and is essential to brain growth and function.
Lora Iannotti, the study’s lead author and associate dean for public health and associate professor at the Brown School at Washington University, says of the results, “Like milk or seeds, eggs are designed to support the early growth and development of an organism and are, therefore, dense in nutrient content.”
So, what’s a pregnant mama to do? Speak with your health care provider for recommendations on how to get more choline. Although more research is needed to understand choline’s full effect on fetal brain development, there’s enough evidence to show that the nutrient has a significant impact.