Pregnancy nutrition is a constant field of research. The connection between the foods pregnant women consume, the activities they choose and the supplements they take is a constantly unfolding mystery. Recently, researchers from Cornell University revealed another important piece of the pregnancy nutrition / fetal health puzzle. According to their research, choline consumption during pregnancy is directed related to the long-term health of the child. Specifically, children born to mothers who consumed more choline were less likely to suffer from hypertension and diabetes in their later years.

Choline, a nutrient found in foods like eggs and broccoli, may be the key to improving the health of your baby for life. Researchers at Cornell University studied the impact of choline on long-term health. In the study, pregnant women were given 930 mg of choline per day. That is more than two times the amount recommended. All women were in the third trimester of pregnancy.

After birth, cortisol levels were tested in the treated infants. Cortisol is a stress hormone that may increase the risk of diabetes. The level of cortisol in infants born to choline-treated mothers was 33-percent lower than peers. Researchers believe the choline essentially reprogrammed the cells to produce less cortisol and that means long-term, permanent protection from elevated cortisol levels, theoretically.

The possible clinical use of the finding is huge. Researchers believe choline supplementation could be useful for women with anxiety or depression and those suffering from preeclampsia. There may also be a positive effect on women with other disorders during pregnancy that cause an increased level of stress, thus negatively impacting the fetus. 

Researchers want to continue testing the effects of choline from natural sources and they want to follow the effects of increased choline through the life process to see if the reduced cortisol lasts beyond infanthood.

Source: Marie Caudell, et al. Cornell University Press Release. May 3, 2012.