Prenatal choline supplements super-charge young brains
Researchers from Duke University Medical Center and the Durham, North Carolina Veteran’s Administration Medical Center have found that the B vitamin choline given to pregnant laboratory animals vastly improved the neurologic function of their offspring compared to normal young. The Duke scientists are part of a national team who are investigating the effects of prenatal supplementation with choline on memory and learning. The study will be published in the April 2004 issue of the Journal of Neurophysiology.
The team, led by Duke University and Durham VA researcher Qiang Li, MD, fed pregnant rats extra choline during a critical period of their pregnancies and studied how the hippocampal neurons of their young differed from those of a control group. They discovered that the neurons were larger and had a greater number of dendrites, which are the spiny protuberances that enable nerve cells to communicate. Additionally, the cells fired electrical signals more rapidly and for longer periods of time, as well as rebounded more easily from their resting phase. Senior author and Duke University neuropsychologist Scott Swartzwelder, PhD, explained, "Having more dendrites means that a neuron has more surface area to receive incoming signals. This could make it easier to push the neuron to the threshold for firing its signal to another neuron.”
Research conducted at the University of North Carolina has shown that choline adds a methyl group to a gene that inhibits cell division process in the brain’s memory centers, thereby switching the gene off. Other research has observed greater activation of two hippocampal proteins that participate in memory and learning in animals who received choline prenatally.
The research has profound implications for humans, because it suggests that enhancing the diet of pregnant women with choline could have a lifelong benefit on their children’s learning ability.
Dr Li summarized, "Previous studies at Duke have shown that choline-supplemented animals are smarter and have a greater learning capacity, but we hadn't known until now whether the cells that make up memory-relevant brain circuits are changed by choline. Choline didn't just change the general environment of the brain, it changed the fundamental building blocks of brain circuits -- the cells themselves."
Age-associated mental impairment The most commonly used memory-enhancing nutrients are precursors to the neurotransmitter "acetylcholine." Short-term memory function depends on acetylcholine acting as a signal to transmit messages between brain cells. Common acetylcholine precursors are various forms of choline and lecithin. Because acetylcholine helps brain cells to communicate with each other, it plays an important role in learning and memory.
An extensive review concerning the multiple effects of glyceryl-phosphorylcholine (GPC) appeared in the journal Mechanisms of Ageing and Development (Parnetti et al. 2001). The analysis covered 13 published clinical trials, which examined 4054 patients with various forms of brain disorders, including adult-onset cognitive dysfunction; Alzheimer's disease; stroke; and transient ischemic attack (TIA). Overall, the consistent finding was that "administration of GPC significantly improved patient clinical condition."
According to Parnetti et al. (2001), the effects of glyceryl-phosphorylcholine (GPC) were superior to the results observed in the placebo groups, especially with regard to cognitive disorders related to memory loss and attention deficit. They noted that the therapeutic benefits of GPC were superior to those of acetylcholine precursors used in the past, such as choline and lecithin. However, what most impressed the researchers were data indicating that GPC helps facilitate the functional recovery of patients who have experienced a stroke.
Brain aging is partially characterized by neurotransmitter deficiency, along with a structural deterioration of neurons and their connective transmission lines (axons and dendrites). Because research indicates that GPC may be of benefit in helping to prevent these pathological events, it may thus be possible to protect against underlying causes of brain aging while partially restoring cognitive function. Although sold as a prescription drug in European countries, GPC is available in the United States as a dietary supplement. Typical daily doses of GPC range from 600-1200 mg.
Cognitive decline is an issue many will face with advancing age. In fact, many people, as early as in their late 30s, start to detect short-term memory loss. The brain relies on certain compounds to maintain neuronal function and structure.
L-alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine (GPC) readily converts to acetylcholine in the brain. GPC also helps maintain neuronal structural integrity. Found in the brain and peripheral nervous system, acetylcholine is a messenger molecule that plays an important role in memory, learning, and attention.
The effect of more than RDA (depending on age) amounts of vitamins and nutrients for children are largely unknown. Children's Formula Life Extension Mix contains amounts which are suitable for children 1 1/2 years and older.
Life Extension for the brain Choline is now recognized as so important to cognitive function that the US government requires food manufacturers and processors to supply at least 55 mg per portion to claim “a good source of choline” on their labels. It should be noted, however, that the recommended daily allowance for choline is 550 mg for men, 425 mg for women, and 450 mg and 550 mg for pregnant and lactating women, respectively.
Because the digestive system is inefficient and cannot absorb all of the nutrients available from food before they pass through the body, essential nutrients such as choline must be supplemented. Natural formulations containing choline in any of its many forms, along with other ingredients that support its circulation to and absorption by the brain, are a vital part of a healthy diet.
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