The distribution of dietary choline intake and serum choline levels in Australian women during pregnancy and associated early life factors

Background: Maternal dietary choline has a central role in foetal brain development and may be associated with later cognitive function. However, many countries are reporting lower than recommended intake of choline during pregnancy.

Methods: Dietary choline was estimated using food frequency questionnaires in pregnant women participating in population-derived birth cohort, the Barwon Infant Study (BIS). Dietary choline is reported as the sum of all choline-containing moieties. Serum total choline-containing compounds (choline-c), phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyelin were measured using nuclear magnetic resonance metabolomics in the third trimester. The main form of analysis was multivariable linear regression.

Results: The mean daily dietary choline during pregnancy was 372 (standard deviation (SD) 104) mg/day. A total of 236 women (23%) had adequate choline intake (440 mg/day) based on the Australian and New Zealand guidelines, and 27 women (2.6%) took supplemental choline ([Formula: see text] 50 mg/dose) daily during pregnancy. The mean serum choline-c in pregnant women was 3.27 (SD 0.44) mmol/l. Ingested choline and serum choline-c were not correlated (R2) = - 0.005, p = 0.880. Maternal age, maternal weight gain in pregnancy, and a pregnancy with more than one infant were associated with higher serum choline-c, whereas gestational diabetes and environmental tobacco smoke during preconception and pregnancy were associated with lower serum choline-c. Nutrients or dietary patterns were not associated with variation in serum choline-c.

Conclusion: In this cohort, approximately one-quarter of women met daily choline recommendations during pregnancy. Future studies are needed to understand the potential impact of low dietary choline intake during pregnancy on infant cognition and metabolic intermediaries.

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