Acknowledging that the nutritional environment in a baby’s first 1,000 days of life is critical to lifelong mental health and development, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP; Itasca, IL) released a policy statement petitioning pediatricians to go beyond simply recommending a “good diet” for their young patients to ensuring that pregnant women and children have access foods that supply adequate levels of brain-building nutrients like protein, zinc, iron, folate, iodine, long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, and the vitamins A, D, B6, B12, and choline.
The statement, titled “Advocacy for Improving Nutrition in the First 1000 Days to Support Childhood Development and Adult Health” and published online January 22, 2018, cites research on the rapid, complex sequences of brain growth that occur between conception and age two.
“The brain's structural foundation, along with billions of brain cells and trillions of connections between them, are built during this sensitive window of time,” says Sarah Jane Schwarzenberg, MD, FAAP, an executive committee member of AAP’s Committee on Nutrition, in the policy statement (of which she was the lead author). “Key nutrients provide the building blocks needed so that a child's brain can grow and develop normally.”
Tom Druke, director of VitaCholine brand development, Balchem Human Nutrition and Pharma (New Hampton, NY), agrees. “We were particularly gratified to see choline included in the AAP statement as it builds upon the AMA’s resolution last year advocating for prenatal vitamins to increase their choline content. Choline is part of each and every cell membrane and children need it in vast quantities as they undergo rapid brain growth in the first 1,000 days. That’s why choline is typically found as an essential nutrient in infant formula and many of the leading brands use our VitaCholine products to meet that need.”
A groundwork of research has shown that choline plays an essential role in optimizing brain development, and a Cornell clinical study1 published in 2017 in The FASEB Journal offers what Druke calls “compelling evidence” supporting the finding that significantly higher maternal choline intake during pregnancy—especially in the final trimester—can lead to faster information processing in their babies.
1. Caudill MA et al., “Maternal choline supplementation during the third trimester of pregnancy improves infant information processing speed: a randomized, double-blind, controlled feeding study.” The FASEB Journal. Published online ahead of print 2017.