Choline is an essential nutrient which is crucial for a number of physiological processes during the prenatal period. This particular micronutrient has been commonly overlooked, however, more recently it has become increasingly recognised, with the American Medical Association (AMA) publishing new advice stating that prenatal vitamin supplements should contain evidence-based levels of choline. In Australia and America, not all prenatal vitamins contain Choline, which is why it is important to ensure you are meeting your needs either through diet or via supplementation.
Choline, like Vitamin D and DHA, can be synthesised by the body but not in amounts adequate to meet metabolic demands. Approximately 90-95% of pregnant women consume less choline than the recommended dietary intake (5). Choline is required to produce an important neurotransmitter for memory, mood, muscle control and other brain and nervous system functions. It directly influences your baby’s brain development and plays an important role in gene expression, lipid transport and metabolism. Low choline intake is also a risk factor for neural tube defects.
Interestingly, your ability to synthesise enough choline is dependant on a certain methyl-exchange relationship between choline and folate. If you are part of the 40-60% of the population that carry the MTHFR gene mutation (an inability to convert synthetic folic acid to its active form), you may actually require more choline that the average individual (4).
What are dietary sources of Choline?
How much do I require?
Pregnant women require:
Lactating women require:
*More recent evidence suggests lactating women consume daily requirements of 930mg/day to effectively enrich breastmilk
I supplemented with DHA & Choline throughout my entire pregnancy and while breastfeeding (as requirements increased).
3. Caudill MA. Pre- and postnatal health: evidence of increased choline needs. J Am Diet Assoc 2010;110:1198-206. [PubMed abstract]