You are What Your Mother Eats: Higher Choline Means Lower Cortisol For Baby

11 Jun

DNA-molecule2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Choline (a nutrient found in  beef liver, chicken liver, eggs, bacon and pork) status in pregnant moms has been found to affect cortisol levels in newborns. According to a study published by Jiang X, Yan et al.,, these pregnant women were given either 930 or 480 mg/day of choline in their third trimester for 12 weeks. The more choline consumed the more was found in moms blood the lower the levels of stress hormone cortisol was found in baby. As you can see from the chart below, current recommendations need to be updated and increased to help promote healthy gene expression and reduce the risk of unwanted health issues.

The Linus Pauling Institute, posted the chart on the Adequate Intake level for choline, however this is not based on the methylation information we now have.

Adequate Intake (AI)               for Choline

Life stage Age Males (mg/day) Females (mg/day)
Infants 0-6 months 125 125
Infants 7-12 months 150 150
Children 1-3 years 200 200
Children 4-8 years 250 250
Children 9-13 years 375 375
Adolescents 14-18 years 550 400
Adults 19 years and older 550 425
Pregnancy All ages 450
Breast-feeding All ages 550

High levels of cortisol is linked to:

Belly fat

Blood sugar imbalances

Anxiety and depression

High Blood pressure

Muscle weakness

Impaired cognitive performance

Lower thyroid function

Decreased bone density


It seems that  like choline in this study, other nutrients are classified as “methyl donors” folic acid, vitamin B-12, methionine, and betaine all cross the placenta to affect DNA methylation** in baby which in turn affects your genetics and health issues throughout life.

Additionally other nutrients that have similar effects include tea catechins (green tea),  resveratrol (wine and peanuts), butyrate (butter), sulforaphane (broccoli) , and diallyl sulfide  (garlic), curcumin (curry).  These nutrients may change the way enzymes function therefore affecting whether of not we are more vulnerable to certain illnesses throughout our lives.

It is my personal opinion that practical advice on incorporating these nutrients into your daily diet, especially for moms and women who are thinking about having children, should be given by healthcare experts and medical organizations.

Current focus on food groups are important but with the BIG push to eat low-fat and avoid too much weight gain while pregnant, critical components to having healthy babies, kids and adults get lost.


** What is methylation?  The perfect answer is described at from Discovery, “Methylation is a process by which a gene’s behavior is altered, but the gene itself isn’t changed.”
The site explains, “This is almost like following all the directions in baking a batch of cookies correctly, except for the oven temperature. Even though all of the ingredients are the same, those cookies won’t bake — or behave — the same way when baked a couple hundred degrees lower than they should be.”
“In methylation, though, the wrong oven temperature is actually other factors, such as environmental exposures or different lifestyle choices. These factors have the potential to cause methyl groups, which are groups of one carbon and three hydrogens, to land on top of our genes and change how they are expressed. This, in turn, changes the ability of our genes to share the directions they contain for making our bodies’ proteins.”

Posted by on June 11, 2012 in children, cortisol, diet, pregnancy, Uncategorized


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4 responses to “You are What Your Mother Eats: Higher Choline Means Lower Cortisol For Baby

  1. thetickthatbitme

    June 11, 2012 at 4:28 am

    Reblogged this on THE TICK THAT BIT ME and commented:
    Great post about the importance of choline intake during pregnacy.

    • valerieberkowitz

      June 15, 2012 at 12:19 am

      Thank you! I am always looking for ways to shift the focus from calories to nutrients. We miss the ball so often by narrowing our attention to only calories or macronutrients. There is so much more to who we are.


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