Choline: The Neurocognitive Essential Nutrient of Interest to Obstetricians and Gynecologists

J Diet Suppl. 2020;17(6):733-752. doi: 10.1080/19390211.2019.1639875. Epub 2019 Aug 6.


Choline is an essential nutrient for proper liver, muscle, and brain functions as well as for lipid metabolism and cellular membrane composition and repair. Humans can produce small amounts of choline via the hepatic phosphatidylethanolamine N-methyltransferase pathway; however, most individuals must consume this vitamin through the diet to prevent deficiency. An individual's dietary requirement for choline is dependent on common genetic variants in genes required for choline, folate, and one-carbon metabolism. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Medical Association have recently reinforced the importance of maternal choline intake during pregnancy and lactation and recognize that failure to provide choline and other key essential nutrients during the first 1,000 days postconception may result in lifelong deficits in brain function despite subsequent nutrient repletion. Given that dietary intake for the majority of the US population, including subpopulations such as pregnant women, women of childbearing age, and vegetarians, falls well below the current adequate intake, there is a need to develop better policies and improve consumer education around the importance of this essential nutrient for human health. This comprehensive expert review summarizes the current scientific evidence on choline and health in relation to interests of obstetricians and gynecologists.

Keywords: brain; choline; cognition; dietary guidelines; placenta; shortfall nutrient.