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Low Choline Levels in Pregnancy Linked to Increased Stress Levels

by Colleen Fleiss on November 17, 2020 at 1:03 AM
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Low Choline Levels in Pregnancy Linked to Increased Stress Levels

Black American pregnant women with lower choline levels delivered prematurely by two weeks, increasing the risk of later mental health problems like attention deficit disorder for their offspring, stated University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus researchers.

Choline is the key nutrient that aids in prenatal brain development. The study published in Schizophrenia Bulletin revealed that reduced choline levels were associated with higher stress hormone cortisol levels.


Increased stress hormone cortisol induced the mother to hold choline in her liver instead of delivering it to the baby.

"One of the possible causes of higher cortisol and lower choline levels in Black American women is the burden of institutional racism and the chronic subconscious stress that it causes," said Robert Freedman, MD, professor of psychiatry at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus and the study's lead researcher.

Choline and Stress Link: Studies

A sample of 183 pregnant women, with 25 self-identified Black women was surveyed. In Black women, choline levels were lower than those of white women from the same neighborhoods.

The study also examined 166 pregnant Black women in Uganda. Choline levels obtained from the participants were higher than Black American levels, indicating that high-stress levels rather than ancestry contributes to low choline levels in Black American women.

In a separate clinical trial with 100 pregnant women, 50 women, of whom seven were Black, received a phosphatidylcholine supplement to raise their choline levels.

Fifty received a placebo; eight of them were Black. Both groups received instruction on how to increase choline in their diets. In the seven Black women who took choline supplements, premature birth was prevented.

The same was not observed in the eight who received a placebo. By age four, their children had fewer problems with attention and social behavior with others.

"We hope to get the word out, to all women and especially to stressed, pregnant Black women, that taking supplemental choline, in addition to the prenatal vitamins they already take, can significantly improve outcomes for their children," said Freedman.

Choline Rich Foods
  • Choline prevents neural tube birth defects in newborns.
  • Beef and chicken liver
  • Egg
  • Mushrooms
  • Shrimps
  • Milk
  • Broccoli
  • Peanut butter
Source: Medindia

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