By now, most of us have heard that taking the B vitamin, Folic acid can reduce the incidence of neural tube defects in newborns by as much as 70%. If you are pregnant, or planning on becoming pregnant soon, the time to start taking Folic acid was yesterday. Research has also found that, when taken before and during pregnancy, folic acid may also protect against other birth defects. Well here's another B vitamin, Choline, and you just might want to be familiar with this B vitamin family member as well.
Choline is an essential nutrient required by the body to make several important compounds necessary for healthy cell membranes. This nutrient helps form phosphatidylcholine, the primary phospholipid of cell membranes. It helps transport of lipids from the liver. Choline is also the precursor to acetylcholine, one of the crucial brain chemicals involved in memory.
Interestingly, choline given to rats during the prenatal period improves brain function of the animals offspring and enhances two proteins involved in learning and memory, according to a new study.
Animal model studies indicate that the amount of choline available to animals in the womb influences neural and cognitive development. The research was so convincing that choline was recently classified as an essential nutrient for humans, especially for pregnant and nursing women. Although past research has shown that prenatal choline supplementation enhances working memory in adult offspring, researchers had not yet unveiled the cellular mechanisms behind this effect.
In the current study, researchers administered choline to pregnant rats during a 6-day, critical time in the gestation period. The scientists then studied the offspring at 20 to 25 days of age to determine cholines effect on brain cells.
In the offspring of choline-supplemented rats, brain cells were larger and were faster at firing electrical signals that trigger the release of chemicals that enhance memory. In addition, two hippocampal proteins, MAPK and CREB, which are involved in learning and memory, were more strongly activated in animals whose mothers were given the choline supplement.
The researchers concluded that dietary supplementation with choline during a brief, critical period of prenatal development alters the structure and function of hippocampal cells in the brain. Need any more reasons to take a good B Complex?
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