Cookies on Nutrition and Food Sciences

Like most websites we use cookies. This is to ensure that we give you the best experience possible.


Continuing to use  means you agree to our use of cookies. If you would like to, you can learn more about the cookies we use.

Nutrition and Food Sciences

Nutrition and food science information across the food chain supporting academic and industrial research

>>> Sign up  to receive our Human Sciences e-newsletter, book alerts, and offers <<<

News Article

Choline Reduces Neural Tube Defect Risk

A high intake of choline around conception reduces risk of neural tube defects (NTD) finds a study published in American Journal of Epidemiology

A high intake of choline and maybe betaine around conception reduces risk of neural tube defects (NTD) finds a study published in American Journal of Epidemiology. According to the authors this is the first time that choline has been investigated in relation to neural tube defects. The researchers suggest that deficiencies in methylation, specifically the supply of methyl groups by folate and choline and other methyl donors is associated with neural tube defects.

Neural tube defects are influenced by a variety of nutritional factors. The best known  factor is folate, but increased intakes of methionine, zinc, vitamin C, dairy products and vitamin B12 reduce NTD risk. Choline and betaine, like folate are closely linked to methylation of homocysteine to methionine. Choline is also important in the formation of phospholipids in the cell membrane and in the formation of neurotransmitters.

Gary Shaw from March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation and colleagues interviewed mothers of 424 neural tube defect cases and 440 controls. They used a food frequency questionnaire to estimate nutrient intake of the mothers in the 3 months before conception.

They found that women consuming more than 498.46 mg/day of choline had a risk of having a baby with NTD about one half that of mothers consuming less than 290.41 mg/day. Combining choline intake with betaine and methionine intake reduced the risks further. Women whose diets were rich in choline, betaine and methionine had a risk of a baby with NTD about one fifth of that of mothers with the lowest intake.

"Our results indicate decreased NTD risks associated with maternal periconceptional diets containing choline and possibly betaine," say the researchers. They suggest that choline and other dietary factors may account for the substantial burden of NTD that remains in the US after fortification of the food supply with folic acid.

The paper "Periconceptional Dietary Intake of Choline and Betaine and Neural Tube Defects in Offspring" by Gary M. Shaw, Suzan L. Carmichael, Wei Yang, Steve Selvin, and Donna M. Schaffer is published in American Journal of Epidemiology (2004) 160: 102-109.

Contact: Gary Shaw, March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, California Birth Defects Monitoring Program, Berkeley, CA, USA

Article details