Recent research has suggested that eating a diet rich in choline during pregnancy can reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s disease in the unborn baby as well as the other generations to come.
In this study, the researchers bred mice which were genetically predisposed to developing Alzheimer’s with females who were fed with additional amounts of choline.
The offspring born of these females were found to develop lesser changes in their brain associated with Alzheimer’s. In fact, they found an improvement in the memory skills of these mice.
The researchers, belonging to the Arizona State University and the Translational Genomics Research Institute bred 2 generations from female mice supplemented with choline.
They observed that the protective effects offered by choline supplementation persisted even after generations. It is important to note the persistence of these effects even when the descendants of these females were not given choline supplementation.
This new study has been published in an article named Molecular Psychiatry.
The Importance of Choline
Choline refers to an essential nutrient that your body requires for numerous functions. These functions may include preserving cell structures and initiating early development of the brain.
The human body is capable of making some amount of choline on its own. However, to fulfill its requirements, it is important to obtain choline from external sources.
In the United States, the primary sources of this nutrient include eggs, dairy, and fish. Other foods rich in choline are cruciferous vegetables, whole grains, seeds, and nuts.
According to the lead researchers of the study, choline deficiencies are largely associated with a failure to meet the milestones in children such as babbling and walking.
However, the study has revealed that even if you are able to get the recommended amount of choline from the diet, additional supplementation is necessary.
Effects of Choline on the Brain
In this research papers, the scientists explained how the risk of acquiring Alzheimer’s disease doubles with the presence of homocysteine in higher amounts in the brain. This amino acid increases the destruction of brain tissue and promotes the formation of beta-amyloid plaque.
Choline can, however, slow down this process by converting homocysteine into methionine.
Another important effect of choline is its ability to reduce the microglial cell activity. These cells aid in clearing waste materials within the brain. However, during Alzheimer’s disease, they may inflame and become hyperactive, killing the brain cells.
In order to explore the mechanism of choline supplementation in mothers, the team looked at the hippocampal brain tissue in the offspring of these female mice. Hippocampus refers to the region of the brain that helps in memory formation.
It was revealed that choline worked by reducing the activation of microglial cells and beta-amyloid protein. It was also found to improve the cognitive deficiencies in both first and second generation offspring.
A detailed analysis of hippocampus indicated that supplementation with choline in the pregnant females can change the expression of almost 27 genes in their descents. These genes which get altered are associated with brain cell death and inflammation.
The scientists consider their work novel because no previous study has ever indicated the transgenerational benefits of supplementation with choline.