(NaturalNews) In a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition it has been revealed that deficiency of choline, an important nutrient for cell growth and functioning, may lead to higher risk of birth defects in babies.
The study was conducted by researchers of McGill University and Cornell University on two groups of mice. One group had been subjected to a choline deficient diet during pregnancy while the other was given the recommended amount of choline. The offspring of both groups were tested and it was shown that the one with choline deficient diet had a higher number of offspring with heart defects.
Choline is a vital nutrient related to the Vitamin B family and it is present in eggs, spinach, bacon, milk, cauliflower, kidney, soybean, salmon, white fish, bananas, lentils and wheat germ. Scientists believe that in pregnant women choline plays an important role in fetal brain development. It is also required for healthy nerves, liver metabolism, cell functioning and transporting nutrients throughout the body.
Because of the insufficient scientific evidence needed to assign a Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for choline, Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine had recommended an adequate intake (AI) of choline in 1998. According to that recommendation, adult men need 550 mg of choline; whereas, adult women need 425 mg of the nutrient. For pregnant women the amount is 450 mg. However previous researchers had revealed that in the US only ten percent or less adult men, women, children and pregnant women have sufficient intake of choline
in their diet.
Choline deficiency may lead to elevated levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the body which may in turn cause reduced cognitive functioning and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. A study published in Behavioral Neuroscience also found that choline intake during pregnancy
and lactation improved attention function.
Marie Caudill, PhD, RD, associate professor at Cornell University noted that women who had choline deficient diets during pregnancy had two times greater the risk of giving birth to babies who had neural tube defects. A woman who did not take enough choline during pregnancy could cause the baby to have insufficient blood vessels in the brain that could lead to learning and memory difficulties later in life.
The researchers advise pregnant women to consult a nutritionist or their physician to know the amount of choline they should have in their diet and to ensure that the infant development is properly reducing the risk of heart, nerve or brain defects.
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Atula Gupta is a freelance writer and a nature enthusiast from India. She devotes her time writing on travels, traditions and the natural world for websites and magazines. She also keeps a blog www.indiasendangered.blogspot.com
for endangered flora and fauna of India.