Choline, Neurological Development and Brain Function: A Systematic Review Focusing on the First 1000 Days

Nutrients. 2020 Jun 10;12(6):1731. doi: 10.3390/nu12061731.


The foundations of neurodevelopment across an individual's lifespan are established in the first 1000 days of life (2 years). During this period an adequate supply of nutrients are essential for proper neurodevelopment and lifelong brain function. Of these, evidence for choline has been building but has not been widely collated using systematic approaches. Therefore, a systematic review was performed to identify the animal and human studies looking at inter-relationships between choline, neurological development, and brain function during the first 1000 days of life. The database PubMed was used, and reference lists were searched. In total, 813 publications were subject to the title/abstract review, and 38 animal and 16 human studies were included after evaluation. Findings suggest that supplementing the maternal or child's diet with choline over the first 1000 days of life could subsequently: (1) support normal brain development (animal and human evidence), (2) protect against neural and metabolic insults, particularly when the fetus is exposed to alcohol (animal and human evidence), and (3) improve neural and cognitive functioning (animal evidence). Overall, most offspring would benefit from increased choline supply during the first 1000 days of life, particularly in relation to helping facilitate normal brain development. Health policies and guidelines should consider re-evaluation to help communicate and impart potential choline benefits through diet and/or supplementation approaches across this critical life stage.

Keywords: brain function; choline; early life; first 1000 days of life; lactation; neurological development; pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Choline / administration & dosage*
  • Cognition
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Pregnancy


  • Choline