Park Ridge, Ill. (August 12, 2009) Research published online in the journal Epidemiology found that higher levels of total blood choline are associated with a 2.5-fold reduction in risk for neural tube birth defects (NTDs).(1) NTDs are birth defects of the brain and spinal cord, and the two most common NTDs are spina bifida and anencephaly. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 3,000 pregnancies in the U.S. are affected by NTDs each year.(2,3) This study adds to the growing body of evidence demonstrating the important role of choline in fetal development.
The Epidemiology study investigated blood samples from more than 180,000 pregnant women and found 80 cases of NTDs. Researchers compared the blood samples to samples from 409 controls without birth defects and examined the specimens for markers including choline, folate, homocysteine, methionine and betaine among others. The researchers observed:
In the research discussion, the investigators note that the cause of NTDs is very complex and that supplementation of the food supply with folic acid, though effective, is only part of the solution. "This study is exciting because it offers new clues for preventing serious birth defects like spina bifida," said Dr. Gary M. Shaw, co-author of the study and professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine. "This research should be repeated in other settings so we can learn more about the best nutrition advice to give pregnant women."
The Benefits of Choline
Choline is an essential nutrient needed for many of life's most basic functions including brain and nerve function, liver metabolism, the transportation of nutrients and the normal functioning of every cell in t
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