Recent research shows that lecithin and its primary component, choline, are involved in maintaining a healthy pregnancy and in infant development. Choline also works with the B vitamin, folic acid, a nutrient that scientists and nutrition experts now urge women to take to help prevent certain birth defects.
Lecithin and choline play many roles in reproduction and development. A form of lecithin is involved with the implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus. In one recent study, lecithin restored normal structure and movement to abnormal sperm cells. In another study, choline enhanced learning in young rats when fed to the mothers before giving birth, and directly to the young rats after being born. Other studies have shown that choline enhances memory in both animals and humans. Because choline is especially important to the growing brain and nervous system of infants, the Infant Formula Act and the American Academy of Pediatrics require that infant formulas provide choline.
Choline and other nutrients work together in the body with folic acid. Women of childbearing age are recommended to consume 400 micrograms of folic acid per day (600 mcg per day during pregnancy) to help prevent neural tube defects. Since folic acid and choline work together, itÃƒÂs possible that an inadequate choline intake might lower folic acid levels in women, increasing the risk of spinal cord defects in newborns. Recent animal studies have found that a choline deficiency does in fact cause below normal liver folic acid levels.
Choline is an essential nutrient for everyone. Adult men and women require 550 and 450 milligrams per day respectively. In foods, choline occurs mostly as lecithin, found in high amounts in egg yolks, organ meats, nuts and wheat germ. However, because many North Americans avoid fatty, high-cholesterol foods that are also rich in lecithin, some experts think lecithin (and choline) intake may be inadequate for some. For those concerned about maintaining an adequate lecithin intake, lecithin supplements are available in health food and drug stores.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.