The paper was published earlier this year in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients. It outlined the researchers’ review of results from cell culture, animal model, and human clinical trials that have been published so far to explore the role of choline and DHA in maternal and infant nutrition.
“This review paper suggests that prenatal care can be improved with a greater understanding of maternal nutrient needs and how an individual’s dietary intake, as well as their genetic and lifestyle factors, may impact metabolism of these important nutrients,” said Susan Hazels Mitmesser, PhD, vice president of science & technology at Pharmavite and co-author of the study.
“As part of prenatal care, it may be beneficial to include testing of key nutrients such as DHA and choline, to ensure adequate intake levels are being met.”
According to Dr Mitmesser and colleagues, existing scientific literature suggests a link between a mother’s DHA and choline intake to the development of a baby’s brain and eyes.
They also found a synergistic interaction between choline and DHA, indicating that insufficient intakes of one or both could have lifelong impact on both maternal and infant health, particularly brain health.
Why DHA and choline took the spotlight
While an overall balanced diets rich with nutrients is key to the health of a mother and her infant’s development, the researchers focused on choline and DHA because human bodies do not produce enough amounts of these two nutrients to meet needs, Dr Mitmesser told us.
“Demand for choline and DHA increase during pregnancy and national survey data show that most adult Americans do not have adequate dietary intakes of choline and DHA, which is especially true in women of child-bearing age and pregnant women,” she said.
According to national survey data cited by Dr Mitmesser, dietary intakes of choline and DHA are low among US women.
Pregnant and lactating women are at increased risk for choline insufficiency as their requirements increase to 450 and 550 mg, respectively, during these life stages, they reported.
Dietary intakes of DHA are also low in American diet—the majority of US adults consume an average of 0.43 oz seafood (63 mg DHA) daily compared to general recommendations of 7–8 oz of fish and seafood weekly to equate to 250 mg EPA + DHA omega-3 fatty acids daily.
“The motivation for focus on DHA and choline was to highlight the significant gaps in dietary intake of these key nutrients in light of their implications on infant neurodevelopment,” she added.
“This review underscores the lifelong implications of these nutrients alone and in synergy for infant and maternal health and we hope that it increases awareness of this public health concern.”
Dr Mitmesser and her team searched electronic databases to identify all scientific studies about choline and DHA, ranging from cell and animal models to human observational and intervention studies.
“We then critically evaluated the strength of this scientific literature and summarized the evidence supporting individual roles of DHA and choline in human nutrition and how these two dietary components function together to support infant development and maternal health,” she said.
The systematic literature review process used in the paper is similar to that used in meta-analyses, she explained, but “provides a qualitative appraisal of synthesized studies instead of a statistical summary, to capture the breadth of health benefits derived from dietary choline and DHA, instead of focusing only on a single outcome.”
Published online, https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11051125
“Choline and DHA in Maternal and Infant Nutrition: Synergistic Implications in Brain and Eye Health”
Authors: Jonathan G. Mun, LeeCole L. Legette, Chioma J. Ikonte, Susan H. Mitmesser