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Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2009 Sep-Oct;31(5):303-11. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2009 Jul 16.

Prenatal choline supplementation mitigates the adverse effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on development in rats.

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Department of Psychology, Center for Behavioral Teratology, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA 92120, USA.


Prenatal alcohol exposure can lead to a range of physical, neurological, and behavioral alterations referred to as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Variability in outcome observed among children with FASD is likely related to various pre- and postnatal factors, including nutritional variables. Choline is an essential nutrient that influences brain and behavioral development. Recent animal research indicates that prenatal choline supplementation leads to long-lasting cognitive enhancement, as well as changes in brain morphology, electrophysiology and neurochemistry. The present study examined whether choline supplementation during ethanol exposure effectively reduces fetal alcohol effects. Pregnant dams were exposed to 6.0g/kg/day ethanol via intubation from gestational days (GD) 5-20; pair-fed and lab chow controls were included. During treatment, subjects from each group received choline chloride (250mg/kg/day) or vehicle. Physical development and behavioral development (righting reflex, geotactic reflex, cliff avoidance, reflex suspension and hindlimb coordination) were examined. Subjects prenatally exposed to alcohol exhibited reduced birth weight and brain weight, delays in eye opening and incisor emergence, and alterations in the development of all behaviors. Choline supplementation significantly attenuated ethanol's effects on birth and brain weight, incisor emergence, and most behavioral measures. In fact, behavioral performance of ethanol-exposed subjects treated with choline did not differ from that of controls. Importantly, choline supplementation did not influence peak blood alcohol level or metabolism, indicating that choline's effects were not due to differential alcohol exposure. These data indicate early dietary supplements may reduce the severity of some fetal alcohol effects, findings with important implications for children of women who drink alcohol during pregnancy.

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