Updated: Jun 8
Choline is an essential nutrient - this means our bodies cannot make enough of it and we therefore NEED to get it from food.
Why is it so important in pregnancy?
Adequate consumption of choline in pregnancy has been linked to reduced incidence of neural tube defects (NTD) and may impact cognitive development, amongst other epigenetic and physiological implications.
How much do we need?
Current recommendations for choline are 480mg/day as per the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). However, there is an abundance of ongoing research that suggests there is an increase in choline utilisation and metabolism during pregnancy and the current recommendations may not be sufficient to meet the demands of pregnancy.
In addition to this data suggest that less than 10% of pregnant and lactating women are meeting the current recommendations for choline consumption.
Where do we get choline from in our diet?
The main sources of choline are eggs, salmon, and chicken. Therefore women following a vegan or vegetarian diet are at risk of deficiency.
Plant-based sources of choline include quinoa, wheat, peas and almonds; however, the choline content is significantly lower.
Do I need to take a choline supplement?
Women following a vegan or vegetarian diet are at risk of deficiency and supplementation may therefore be necessary. However, this question requires a thorough nutrition assessment from a prenatal dietitian to be answered correctly. Then, individualised dietetic advice regarding dose, duration etc. can be given.
It is important to note that choline should not be relied on its own to prevent NTD's. Dietary folate & folic acid supplementation is also key here.
Choline is certainly a supplement worth considering and can be found in many (BUT not all!) prenatal supplements. Chat to your prenatal dietitian to find the best option for you.