I was excited to see that the August 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association covered choline as a feature story. While we hear about the importance of supplementing with a prenatal vitamin containing folic acid and iron, choline seems to the be nutrient most forgotten. We may see this change soon.
What it is While choline is a B vitamin that can be assimilated, or made, from other compounds in the body, the demand for this nutrient increases dramatically during pregnancy, possibly bringing the mother’s stores dangerously low and putting her liver at risk and baby’s brain and spinal cord development at a disadvantage. Since the body can make some choline and it’s used in so many of the body’s processes, it has been difficult for researchers to pinpoint how much the body actually needs. This is why choline is set at the Adequate Intake (AI) level only, 450 milligrams, instead of a Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). What may shock you is that the average pregnant American woman is only getting 75% of the AI, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2003-04). Surprisingly, even the leading prenatal vitamins don’t contain choline. Nada. Zip. Zero.
Where to get it (or not) Here is a look at some prenatal vitamins and the amount of choline they contain*:
Nature Made Prenatal Multi: 0 mg
Nature Made Prenatal Multi + DHA: 0 mg
One-A-Day Prenatal: 0 mg
Promise Prenatal: 0 mg
Of course, it’s important to know that prenatal vitamins aren’t the only source of choline. As a registered dietitian I will almost always recommend first first. Foods that are good sources of choline include eggs (115 mg/1 large), beef steak (110mg/3 oz), salmon (100mg/3 oz), and navy beans (1 cup). In this case,the animal, poultry, and fish proteins are the winner, containing the highest amount of choline, and vegetables come in at a respectable second.
Simply put, if you’re eating a balanced diet containing protein foods and vegetables, you’re probably consuming enough choline. If not, you may want to take a closer look at your diet to see if you are getting at least 450 mg daily.
*Daily dosage for each brand is one capsule, with the exception of S7 Prenatal which is 2 packets daily, the recommended daily dose. Values taken from the manufacturers website.
Talk with your doctor or registered dietitian before taking any vitamin supplement. This blog is for awareness purposes only and is not meant to provide or replace the advice of your medical care provider.