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Maternal choline concentrations during pregnancy and choline-related genetic variants as risk factors for neural tube defects

Mills, James L, Fan, Ruzong, Brody, Lawrence C, Liu, Aiyi, Ueland, Per M, Wang, Yifan, Kirke, Peadar N, Shane, Barry, Molloy, Anne M
TheAmerican journal of clinical nutrition 2014 v.100 no.4 pp. 1069-1074
protective effect, metabolism, alleles, choline, pregnant women, risk factors, single nucleotide polymorphism, pregnancy, children, clinical nutrition, folic acid, neural tube defects, blood, betaine, phosphatidylethanolamine N-methyltransferase
Background: Low maternal choline intake and blood concentration may be risk factors for having a child with a neural tube defect (NTD); however, the data are inconsistent. This is an important question to resolve because choline, if taken periconceptionally, might add to the protective effect currently being achieved by folic acid.Objective: We examined the relation between NTDs, choline status, and genetic polymorphisms reported to influence de novo choline synthesis to investigate claims that taking choline periconceptionally could reduce NTD rates.Design: Two study groups of pregnant women were investigated: women who had a current NTD-affected pregnancy (AP; n = 71) and unaffected controls (n = 214) and women who had an NTD in another pregnancy but not in the current pregnancy [nonaffected pregnancy (NAP); n = 98] and unaffected controls (n = 386). Blood samples to measure betaine and total choline concentrations and single nucleotide polymorphisms related to choline metabolism were collected at their first prenatal visit.Results: Mean (±SD) plasma total choline concentrations in the AP (2.8 ± 1.0 mmol/L) and control (2.9 ± 0.9 mmol/L) groups did not differ significantly. Betaine concentrations were not significantly different between the 2 groups. Total choline and betaine in the NAP group did not differ from controls. Cases were significantly more likely to have the G allele of phosphatidylethanolamine-N-methyltransferase (PEMT; V175M, +5465 G>A) rs7946 (P = 0.02).Conclusions: Our results indicate that maternal betaine and choline concentrations are not strongly associated with NTD risk. The association between PEMT rs7946 and NTDs requires confirmation. The addition of choline to folic acid supplements may not further reduce NTD risk.