Choline Study awarded CCSS Spring 2021 Grant

Barb Strupp. Anthony Ong, Rick Canfield

A Cornell University study by Barbara J. Strupp, Professor in the Division of Nutritional Sciences and the Department of Psychology, Anthony D. Ong, Professor of Human Development, and Richard Canfield, Senior Research Associate in the Division of Nutritional Sciences has been awarded a grant of nearly $30,000 by the Cornell Center for Social Sciences (CCSS). The study, titled Reducing the Adverse Effects of Prenatal Maternal Stress on Child Neurodevelopment in a Low-Income African-American Sample, will test the hypothesis that supplementing maternal diet with choline reduces offspring adversities due to prenatal stress.

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Choline is an essential nutrient, especially critical during fetal development; yet, nearly all pregnant women consume less than the recommended amount of choline (Wallace and Fulgoni (2016) used NHANES data and reported that <3% of U.S. women ages 19-50 consumed an adequate intake of choline). There is evidence that if a mother is stressed while pregnant her child is substantially more likely to have emotional or cognitive problems, including an increased risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, anxiety disorder, and deficits in executive functioning. The investigators’ long-range goal is to conduct a large clinical trial to test the hypothesis that maternal choline supplementation during pregnancy will improve cognition and emotion regulation in all children, but that this benefit will be greatest in children exposed to prenatal stress (due to choline’s neuroprotective actions).  The focus of that trial will be African-American women who are at high risk for both prenatal stress and inadequate choline intake. The short-term goal is to collect preliminary data from a small ongoing choline supplementation study involving pregnant women and their infants, which will provide important preliminary data to support a larger clinical trial.

Foods with the highest choline content are animal products such as eggs, meat and dairy products, but certain beans (e.g. soy, kidney) and cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccoli, brussels sprouts) are also rich in choline.  Other dietary sources of choline include nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

Funds will be received in May 2021 and will be used to pay for graduate student assistance and for honorariums to participants in a pilot study.

To learn more about choline research, please visit the Cornell Choline Cognition Research Group‘s website or email them at cholcog@cornell.edu.