The link between nutrition and cognitive health is particularly strong but it is something we are still investigating at length. This week’s Nutrition News evaluates different studies published recently that explore this link from pregnancy to childhood right up to old age.

Find out more here.

Choline during pregnancy for cognitive health in children

A recent study has found that seven year old children whose mothers supplemented with choline during pregnancy performed better in a test involving sustained attention than their peers. The study from Cornell University, discussed in this Science Daily article, monitored women in their third trimester of pregnancy and had half of the group consume 480 mg of choline per day and the other half consume 930 mg choline per day.

The study comes after it as found that more than 90 percent of expectant mothers consume less than the recommended 450 mg/per day of choline. The nutrient is an essential water-soluble vitamin meaning that the body doesn’t make enough of it to support bodily functions with the remainder needing to be secured through food sources, such as in egg yolks, lean red meat, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts and cruciferous vegetables, or through supplementation.

The research linking maternal consumption of choline and cognitive benefits in children goes back decades and this latest study goes further in suggesting these cognitive benefits affect attention span and last into childhood years.

The study found that children born to mothers in the 480 mg choline group showed a decline in accuracy from the beginning to the end of the task whilst the children born to mothers in the 930 mg choline group maintained a high level of accuracy throughout the sustained attention task.

The current recommended levels of choline were set in 1998 and based on the amount of choline needed to prevent liver dysfunction in men, despite bodies of research to have been published since that supports the link between maternal choline levels and their offspring. While further research is needed, the study gives additional weight to a call for a review of recommended choline levels.

Liquid vitamin B12 health benefits

Vitamin B12 is an essential water soluble vitamin, meaning that the body needs it to keep healthy but it does not produce it on its own and needs to obtain it through diet. Vitamin B12 is important for a range of functions in the body including contributing to normal energy-yielding metabolism, the normal functioning of the nervous system, normal psychological function, and normal red blood cell formation, among others.

This article by Healthline explains the importance of vitamin B12 and the difference between vitamin B12 capsules and liquid vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 is found naturally in food such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and dairy and most people get enough from their diet however, those with dietary requirements, such as vegans vegetarians, and other groups, such as the elderly and those who are pregnant, may need to supplement their diet to obtain enough.

The difference between capsules and liquids often comes down to personal preference; whether the individual prefers the convenience of a capsule of the flexibility in dosage that comes with a liquid. The bioavailability, meaning how easily the nutrient is absorbed by the body, should not vary between capsule and liquid and there is some debate over the differing bioavailability of different forms of vitamin B12 but, ultimately, absorption is determined by a person’s age, genetics, and/or digestive system.

There are many things to consider when exploring vitamin B12 supplementation and, as with any addition to your diet, it is best to consult your healthcare practitioner.

Could probiotics slow cognitive decline?

The gut-brain axis is being explored at an increasing rate, with the latest research, reported by Medical News Today, looking at whether probiotics could slow down the rate of cognitive decline.

The article references three separate studies that explored the effects of probiotic supplementation in adults with mild cognitive impairment. The first of the studies evaluated probiotic supplementation over a 24 week period and noted increased mini-mental state exam (MMSE) scores in the participants. While a follow up study showed improvement in test scores in both the test group and placebo group, a third study showed significant improvements in tasks relating to memory and attention.

As more and more objective evidence is published in favour of probiotics for cognitive health, particularly in adults and older adults, it is clear that further studies are needed to confirm the findings and provide important information with which to communicate to the wider public.

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Alison Astill-Smith author Alison is the Founder of Metabolics who writes about Metabolics updates, events and natural healthcare. Her experience and passion for natural supplements and healthcare comes from her years of experience as a practising osteopath, having founded Metabolics in her search for high quality, natural products in her own work. Alison has been a qualified and practising Osteopath since 1981 and regularly gives seminars on a range of healthcare subjects to the wider practitioner community helping share her knowledge and experience.