More choline for mom decreases Down syndrome effects

September 12, 2013 by Blaine Friedlander, Cornell University

Down syndrome fetuses dramatically benefit when their mothers increase their intake of the nutrient choline during pregnancy and nursing, report Cornell researchers in the journal Neurobiology of Disease. Increased choline by moms bolsters brain functions and plays a profound health role for Down syndrome offspring throughout their lives.

Increased maternal choline intake improves spatial cognition and attention, and delays aging-related in normal . The present findings with Down syndrome mice indicate that increased maternal choline consumption may also lessen the impairment of individuals with Down syndrome and reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease, which is seen in nearly all Down syndrome individuals.

While older pregnant women are generally tested for a Down syndrome fetus, younger women are not since their risk is low. However, development of all fetuses – Down syndrome or not – would benefit from choline supplements during pregnancy, said Barbara Strupp, Cornell professor of and of psychology and the study's senior author. Ramon Velazquez, a Cornell doctoral candidate in the field of psychology, is the first author.

When the researchers compared how Down syndrome mice performed in a water maze, they discovered that the ones whose mothers had choline supplements performed much better than those born to moms consuming lower choline levels.

At the cellular level, the researchers found that increased maternal choline bolstered neurogenesis – formation of new neurons – in a part of the brain called the hippocampus, a brain region important for spatial mapping and memory. Importantly, hippocampal neurogenesis correlated with mouse performance in the water maze. This suggests that the increased neurogenesis may have contributed to the improved spatial cognition.

"Mounting evidence suggests that many women may not be consuming enough choline during pregnancy to promote optimal brain development and cognitive functioning of their babies – both normal and Down syndrome. Increasing choline intake during pregnancy is sound nutritional advice for all women and may offer an even more pronounced benefit for Down syndrome offspring," Strupp said.

Demand for choline goes up dramatically during pregnancy, she explained. Choline is an essential nutrient for all individuals, but pregnant women have an even greater need due to the demands of the developing fetus. The most concentrated sources of choline are foods such as eggs and meats, but is found in many other foods, including vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower, Strupp said.

The study, "Maternal Choline Supplementation Improves Spatial Learning and Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis in the Ts65Dn Mouse Model of Down Syndrome," is published in the July issue of Neurobiology of Disease.

Explore further: Choline intake improves memory and attention-holding capacity

Related Stories

Choline intake improves memory and attention-holding capacity

July 11, 2013
An experimental study in rats has shown that consuming choline, a vitamin B group nutrient found in foodstuffs like eggs and chicken or beef liver, soy and wheat germ, helps improve long-term memory and attention-holding ...

Pioneering study shows prenatal choline may 'program' healthier babies

May 3, 2012
Pregnant women may have added incentive to bulk up on broccoli and eggs now that a Cornell University study has found increased maternal intake of the nutrient choline could decrease their children's chances of developing ...

Nutrient in eggs and meat may influence gene expression from infancy to adulthood

September 20, 2012
Just as women are advised to get plenty of folic acid around the time of conception and throughout early pregnancy, new research suggests another very similar nutrient may one day deserve a spot on the obstetrician's list ...

Sick from stress? Blame your mom... and epigenetics

July 31, 2012
If you're sick from stress, a new research report appearing in the August 2012 issue of The FASEB Journal suggests that what your mother ate—or didn't eat—may be part of the cause. The report shows that choline ...

Choline supplementation during pregnancy presents a new approach to schizophrenia prevention

January 15, 2013
Choline, an essential nutrient similar to the B vitamin and found in foods such as liver, muscle meats, fish, nuts and eggs, when given as a dietary supplement in the last two trimesters of pregnancy and in early infancy, ...

Recommended for you

Brain zaps may help curb tics of Tourette syndrome

January 16, 2018
Electric zaps can help rewire the brains of Tourette syndrome patients, effectively reducing their uncontrollable vocal and motor tics, a new study shows.

Researchers identify protein involved in cocaine addiction

January 16, 2018
Mount Sinai researchers have identified a protein produced by the immune system—granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF)—that could be responsible for the development of cocaine addiction.

A 'touching sight': How babies' brains process touch builds foundations for learning

January 16, 2018
Touch is the first of the five senses to develop, yet scientists know far less about the baby's brain response to touch than to, say, the sight of mom's face, or the sound of her voice.

New study reveals why some people are more creative than others

January 16, 2018
Creativity is often defined as the ability to come up with new and useful ideas. Like intelligence, it can be considered a trait that everyone – not just creative "geniuses" like Picasso and Steve Jobs – possesses in ...

Neuroscientists suggest a model for how we gain volitional control of what we hold in our minds

January 16, 2018
Working memory is a sort of "mental sketchpad" that allows you to accomplish everyday tasks such as calling in your hungry family's takeout order and finding the bathroom you were just told "will be the third door on the ...

Miles Davis is not Mozart: The brains of jazz and classical pianists work differently

January 16, 2018
Keith Jarret, world-famous jazz pianist, once answered in an interview when asked if he would ever be interested in doing a concert where he would play both jazz and classical music: "No, that's hilarious. [...] It's like ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.