Background: Phosphatidylcholine (PC) produced via the S-adenosylmethionine-dependent phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) N-methyltransferase (PEMT) pathway is enriched with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA plays a critical role in fetal development and is linked to health endpoints in adulthood. It is unknown whether choline, which can serve as a source of S-adenosylmethionine methyl groups, influences PC-DHA or the PC:PE ratio in pregnant and nonpregnant women.
Objective: This study tested whether choline intake affects indicators of choline-related lipid metabolism, including erythrocyte and plasma PC-DHA and PC:PE ratios, in pregnant women in the third trimester and nonpregnant women.
Design: Pregnant (n = 26) and nonpregnant (n = 21) women consumed 480 or 930 mg choline/d and a daily DHA supplement for 12 wk. Blood was collected at baseline and at the midpoint and end of the study. PC-DHA was analyzed as the proportion of total PC fatty acids.
Results: Pregnant women had greater (P = 0.002) PC-DHA concentrations than did nonpregnant women at baseline. The proportion of erythrocyte and plasma PC-DHA increased (P ≤ 0.002) in pregnant and nonpregnant women regardless of choline intake. However, in nonpregnant women, consumption of 930 mg choline/d led to greater (P < 0.001) erythrocyte PC-DHA and a more rapid increase (P < 0.001) in plasma PC-DHA. Lower (P = 0.001-0.024) erythrocyte and plasma PC:PE in pregnant women was not modified by choline intake.
Conclusions: A higher choline intake may increase PEMT activity, resulting in greater PC-DHA enrichment of the PC molecule in nonpregnant women. Increased production of PC-DHA during pregnancy indicates elevated PEMT activity and a higher demand for methyl donors. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT01127022.