Pregnancy is a time when women should pay extra attention to quality nutrition. But an article in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggests that this may not be as easy as it sounds. The article specifically highlights choline, a member of the B vitamin family.
Choline, like so many other nutrients, has many roles in the body. One of the most famous roles is acting as a substrate to make acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter. It is also vital for cell signaling and maintaining the integrity of the cell membrane. Choline is found in food often as phosphatidylcholine (aka lecithin). Phosphatidylcholine is present in egg yolks, meat products, soy, brussel sprouts, broccoli, beef liver and more.
During pregnancy, a great amount of choline is concentrated in the growing baby. By the time he is born, his blood choline concentration is 3 times higher than Mom's! Clearly, pregnancy is a critical time for choline availability. Taken to an extreme, choline deficits can lead to neural tube defects in the embryo as well as cognitive impairment.
According to Dr. Caudill, the author of the article being referenced here, "the majority of pregnant (and presumably lactating) women are not achieving the target intake levels and that certain common genetic variants may increase requirements for choline beyond current recommendations."
Ideas like this show us we have a long way to go if we want to truly provide comprehensive prenatal care.