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Choline May Boost Memory, Local Moms Participate In Study

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Local mothers are participating in a study trying to determine if a nutrient called choline will help boost their child's memory.

Colette Quinlivan is pregnant with her third child and recently decided to participate in a study at the

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


She said she is taking part to see if a high-choline diet during her pregnancy will improve her baby's memory.

"I was looking for a study, but the word choline attracted me," said Quinlivan.

Dr. Steven Zeisel, chairman of the UNC Department of Nutrition, said choline is found in many foods.

"Foods like eggs, milk, wheat germ have a lot of choline in them," said Zeisel.

Researchers at the UNC School of Public Health said that a few years ago, they discovered that pregnant rats that ate choline had smarter offspring.

"Extra choline seems to make babies come out and perform better," said Zeisel.

Choline improves the type of memory used when learning how to do something and short-term memory, according to researchers.

"Looking for your lost keys. Keeping track of locations," said psychologist Dr. Steven Reznick.

"We don't know if that's true in humans, though we believe it does," said Zeisel.

Zeisel hopes the study will prove that it does improve human memory.

In the study, some of the pregnant women take choline supplements, while others, like Quinlivan, receive choline from food.

"I have to eat eggs every day to get my choline," said Quinlivan.

Researchers test memory in infants with a device that detects and tracks eye movements. During memory tests, they show babies the same things, over and over. Then, the device reads eye movements and determines if the baby remembered seeing it.

Right now, researchers said they do not recommend that pregnant women change their diet. They added that if choline boosts memory, more is not necessarily better.

Quinlivan said she is looking forward to the arrival of her new baby and seeing if the choline makes a difference.

"I think it's wonderful. Who wouldn't want a smarter child or a child with a better memory?" she said.

For more information on the study, you can call

(919) 408-3320



Ken Bodine, Photographer
Andrea Moody, Producer
Jennifer Fauteux, Web Editor

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