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Choline, an essential nutrient found in eggs, may help lower risk of neural tube defects

Here’s some news about eggs and choline excerpted from a release issued today by the Egg Nutrition News Bureau. The bottom line? Choline, a nutrient found in eggs, may reduce the risk of birth defects in infants.

Research published today online in the journal Epidemiology found that higher levels of total blood choline are associated with a 2.5-fold reduction in risk for neural tube birth defects (NTDs) (1). NTDs are birth defects of the brain and spinal cord, and the two most common NTDs are spina bifida and anencephaly. According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 3,000 pregnancies in the U.S. are affected by NTDs each year. This study adds to the growing body of evidence demonstrating the important role of choline in fetal development.

 What did the study find?

The Epidemiology study investigated blood samples from more than 180,000 pregnant women and found 80 cases of NTDs. Researchers compared the blood samples to samples from 409 controls without birth defects and examined the specimens for markers including choline, folate, homocysteine, methionine and betaine among others. The researchers observed: * no other significant differences between the two study groups for any of the other blood markers * a 2.5-fold reduction in risk for NTDs with the highest blood choline levels

Why else is choline important?

Choline is an essential nutrient needed for many of life's most basic functions including brain and nerve function, liver metabolism, the transportation of nutrients and the normal functioning of every cell in the body. Adequate choline intake is especially important for pregnant and breastfeeding women because it has been shown to influence prenatal and infant brain and spinal cord development as well as lifelong memory and learning functions. There is a high rate of choline transfer from mother to fetus and breast milk is also rich in choline, so meeting maternal choline needs is very important.

Studies have also shown the risk of developing breast cancer was 24% lower among women with increased intakes of choline. And choline appears to help reduce homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood that may increase chronic inflammation, a risk factor for heart disease.

Which foods contain choline?

Choose eggs, lean beef, salmon, cauliflower, milk and peanut butter. When eating eggs as a source of choline, be sure to eat the yolk because that's where the choline is. One yolk contains 125 milligrams of choline.

More information about choline and recommended daily intakes

ore information about the study (1) Shaw, Gary M. et al. Choline and risk of neural tube defects in a folate-fortified population. Epidemiology; published online July 10, 2009. Paper to be published September 2009.

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