Prenatal damage to infants by drinking alcohol while pregnant is a growing problem. Estimates vary from, for every 1000 live births in the U.S. 1-2 infants are born with fetal alcohol syndrome and 3-5 are born with fetal alcohol effects (a less severe diagnosis) to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders occuring in 1 out of every 100 live births. Despite increased warnings that drinking alcohol while pregnant is damaging to the developing fetus statistics show that more than 50% of pregnant women between the ages of 15-44 reported drinking while pregnant. As a result, scientists are now looking for ways to treat fetal alcohol effects after birth.
Science Daily reports that research conducted at San Diego University found that giving the vitamin choline to effected infants may help reduce some of the negative effects. The study, headed by Jennifer Thomas, PhD, involved 170 rats and demonstrated that giving choline to pups who were exposed to alcohol significantly reduced overactivity and learning deficits. Motor coordination deficits were not affected by the vitamin and it is important to note that giving choline is not going to fix all the problems associated with fetal alcohol effects, women must continue to be cautioned not to drink while pregnant says Thomas. Preliminary results show that the positive effects of choline are long lasting and more research must be done to discover how late in development the vitamin can be given and still be effective.
Choline is a chemical that is similar to B-vitamins, but not classified as one. It is essential for brain development in both fetus' and infants and may even help prevent memory loss associated with aging. Choline has been shown to protect the liver from certain types of damage and may even reverse damage that has already occured. It may also help reduce cholesterol and protect against certain cancers, among other things. Choline can be obtained through some foods such as beef, cauliflower, and peanut butter and it is important not to get more than the recommended doses. (Click on the link above for a chart showing recommended amount by age and sex.)
Other studies have also demonstrated the positive effects of choline on prenatal development in rats, and Thomas and her colleagues hope to conduct clinical studies of choline on infants affected by prenatal alcohol exposure. While preliminary results look good, remember to always check with your child's doctor before giving them any vitamin supplements.