Various studies have revealed that choline, which is present in eggs in abundance, is associated with decreased rate of heart defects during prenatal development.
Researchers examined the offspring of mice that consumed a choline-deficient diet during pregnancy compared to the offspring of mice that consumed a diet containing the recommended amount of choline.
They observed that heart defects were more prevalent among the offspring of mice consuming a choline-deficient diet.
The study also found that low choline intake was associated with increased levels of homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood that, when elevated, is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and declined cognitive function.
"Choline is a complex nutrient that is intricately involved in fetal development, and this research reveals another piece of the puzzle," said Marie Caudill, of Cornell University.
"Women with diets low in choline have two times greater risk of having babies with neural tube defects so it's essential that nutrition education during pregnancy and breastfeeding highlight the importance of dietary sources of choline," she added.
Apart from decreasing risk of prenatal development, choline plays an important role throughout lifespan too.
Another study found that higher intakes of choline and betaine were associated with lower blood homocysteine concentrations, especially in subjects with low blood levels of folate and vitamin B12.4 Choline, like folate, is involved in breaking down homocysteine in the blood.
Elevated homocysteine concentrations have been associated with increased risk of stroke, coronary heart disease and cognitive decline.
Researchers also studied the impact of choline intake on DNA damage in 60 Mexican-American men.
They found that individuals with greater intakes of choline, even exceeding current dietary recommendations, exhibited the least amount of DNA damage.
The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.