Background: Choline is essential for fetal brain development, and it is not known whether a typical American diet contains enough choline to ensure optimal brain development.
Objective: The study was undertaken to determine whether supplementing pregnant women with phosphatidylcholine (the main dietary source of choline) improves the cognitive abilities of their offspring.
Design: In a double-blind, randomized controlled trial, 140 pregnant women were randomly assigned to receive supplemental phosphatidylcholine (750 mg) or a placebo (corn oil) from 18 wk gestation through 90 d postpartum. Their infants (n = 99) were tested for short-term visuospatial memory, long-term episodic memory, language development, and global development at 10 and 12 mo of age.
Results: The women studied ate diets that delivered ∼360 mg choline/d in foods (∼80% of the recommended intake for pregnant women, 65% of the recommended intake for lactating women). The phosphatidylcholine supplements were well tolerated. Groups did not differ significantly in global development, language development, short-term visuospatial memory, or long-term episodic memory.
Conclusions: Phosphatidylcholine supplementation of pregnant women eating diets containing moderate amounts of choline did not enhance their infants' brain function. It is possible that a longer follow-up period would reveal late-emerging effects. Moreover, future studies should determine whether supplementing mothers eating diets much lower in choline content, such as those consumed in several low-income countries, would enhance infant brain development.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00678925.