Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Prenatal Choline Supplements May Protect Offspring if Mother Contracts Viral Infection

Taking choline supplements during pregnancy may reduce the negative impact of viral respiratory infections on offspring, according to a study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.

“The new analysis may provide information relevant to potential COVID-19 effects on fetal brain development and their interaction with higher prenatal maternal choline levels,” wrote Robert Freedman, M.D., of the University of Colorado School of Medicine and colleagues.

Previous studies showed that infection in pregnant women can affect fetal brain development and may increase the risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and schizophrenia in offspring. Freedman and others have also found evidence to suggest higher levels of maternal choline—a vitamin B nutrient found in various foods and dietary supplements—may help mitigate these risks to infants.

It is recommended that pregnant women get 500 mg of choline daily, according to Freedman and colleagues. For the current study, the researchers compared choline levels measured at 16 weeks’ gestation in 36 pregnant women who had developed moderate to severe respiratory infections by week 16 with 53 mothers who reported no inflections. When the infants reached three months of age, the mothers completed the Infant Behavior Questionnaire-Revised Short Form (IBQ-R). The questionnaire asks parents to rate infants on measures of attention and engagement with parents, fearfulness and sadness, activity, and more.

Mothers with viral respiratory infections in early gestation were younger and more likely to be depressed and anxious, the researchers reported. Infants of mothers who had contracted a viral respiratory infection and had higher gestational choline serum levels (defined as ≥7.5 mM) scored higher in their ability to maintain attention and bond with parents compared with infants whose mothers had contracted an infection but had lower choline levels (< 7.5 mM). The increased maternal anxiety and depression in the mothers with respiratory viral infections did not appear to be associated with their infants’ ability to maintain attention and bond with parents, Freedman and colleagues wrote.

The authors noted that the effects of choline on infant development following COVID-19 infection “are as yet unknown, and no mother in this study had an infection requiring intensive care medical support for COIVD-19.” However, they concluded, “phosphatidylcholine or choline supplements along with other prenatal vitamins may help buffer the fetal brain from the possible detrimental impact of the current pandemic and decrease the risk of the children’s future mental illness.”
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As chair of APA’s Nominating Committee, Immediate Past President Bruce Schwartz, M.D., is seeking to diversify the elected leadership of APA and invites all members to consider running for one of the open Board of Trustee offices in APA’s 2021 election: president-elect; secretary; early-career psychiatrist trustee-at-large; minority/underrepresented representative trustee; Area 1, 4, and 7 trustees; and resident-fellow member trustee-elect. You may nominate yourself or a colleague—the important point is that you get involved! The deadline is Tuesday, September 1.

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