A new U.S. study of pregnant women in the Ukraine will seek to determine if the prenatal nutrient choline could help protect the fetus from the potential harmful effects to their brain development caused by the mother’s drinking, the Associated Press reported on June 22.
Christina Chambers, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues will study more than 600 Ukrainian women who admit to drinking while pregnant. The researchers will counsel the women to stop drinking and randomly chose which women will take a generic daily vitamin and which will take a daily vitamin boosted with 750 milligrams of choline.
Choline, a nutrient found in food such as liver and eggs, is a precursor to a chemical in the brain that plays a vital role in learning. Currently, pregnant women are advised to ingest 450 mg of choline from food daily.
Chambers’ research was sparked by a San Diego State University animal study that exposed pregnant rats to alcohol and extra choline during a surge in the rat pups’ brain development in the third-trimester. Led by Jennifer Thomas, the San Diego State researchers found that the extra choline the mothers and pups received significantly improved the pups’ later ability to learn.
With humans, however, “whether you’ll be able to intervene when the woman’s drinking is highly questionable,” said Thomas.
Currently, the only help for children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders is intense behavioral or educational treatment once they reach preschool or school age, according to research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.