FAB RESEARCH COMMENT:Most so-called 'fetal alcohol spectrum disorders' (FASD) are likely to go undetected, unless maternal alcohol consumption is extreme enough to be on record. However, the resulting early brain damage is irreversible, and can lead to difficulties with sensory processing, mood, behaviour and learning. FASD can be a factor in numerous descriptive diagnoses, including ADHD, dyspraxia or other childhood neurodevelopmental disorders; anxiety disorders; general learning disabilities, or serious mental health problems such as schizophrenia.
This animal study shows that many of the damaging effects of prenatal alcohol on brain development can be alleviated by dietary supplementation of mothers during pregnancy with choline - a B-vitamin like substance important for methylation (and thus gene expression and regulation) as well as a key component of brain and nerve cell membranes.
Despite public health advice, alcohol consumption in pregnancy remains all too common. These findings have such important potential implications for public health that human clinical studies are urgently warranted.
Meanwhile - as choline is
relatively lacking from the diets of most women during pregnancy (and is not included in many prenatal vitamin supplements), raising awareness of the importance of this key nutrient in mothers-to-be and the health professionals who care for them is already overdue, as human studies show that higher prenatal choline status in mothers-to-be also protects against the neurodevelopmental problems in children that often follow from viral infections in prenancy.