Consuming foods such as egg yolks, lean red meat, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts and cruciferous vegetables – that are rich in nutrient choline – during pregnancy may boost your baby’s brain, a study has found. Researchers from the Cornell University in the US used a rigorous study design to show cognitive benefits in the offspring of pregnant women who daily consumed close to twice the currently recommended amount of choline during their last trimester. “In animal models using rodents, there’s widespread agreement that supplementing the maternal diet with additional amounts of this single nutrient has lifelong benefits on offspring cognitive function,” said Marie Caudill, from the Cornell University in the US. “Our study provides some evidence that a similar result is found in humans,” Caudill said. The finding is important because choline is in high demand during pregnancy yet most women consume less than the recommended 450 milligrammes per day. For the study published in The FASEB Journal, 26 women were randomly divided into two groups and all the women consumed exactly the same diet. Intake of choline and other nutrients were tightly controlled, which was important since the metabolism of choline and its functions can overlap with such nutrients as vitamin B12, folic acid and vitamin B6. The researchers tested infant information processing speed and visuospatial memory at 4, 7, 10 and 13 months of age. They timed how long each infant took to look toward an image on the periphery of a computer screen, a measure of the time it takes for a cue to produce a motor response. The test has been shown to correlate with IQ in childhood. The results show that infants who demonstrate fast processing speeds when young typically continue to be fast as they age. While offspring in both groups showed cognitive benefits, information processing speeds were significantly faster for the group of expectant mothers who consumed 930 mg/day when compared with the group that took 480 mg/day over the same period.

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