New York, June 2 (IANS) Pregnant women who take extra choline supplements may be able to mitigate the negative impact viral respiratory infections, including Covid-19, may have on their babies, say researchers.
Choline is a vitamin B nutrient found in various foods and dietary supplements and is critical to fetal brain development.
"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts that Covid-19 will impact fetal brain development like other common corona respiratory viruses," said study lead author Robert Freedman from the University of Colorado in Canada.
The study, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, specifically looked at whether higher prenatal choline levels helped protect the developing brain of fetus even if the mother contracted a viral respiratory infection during early pregnancy.
It has revealed higher prenatal choline levels mitigate the impact of virus infection.
The research team analysed the effects of mother's respiratory virus infection on infant's behaviour by measuring the infant's IBQ-R Regulation dimension, which looks at the development of infant attention and other self-regulatory behaviours.
Lower IBQ-R Regulation at one year of age is associated with problems in attention and social behaviour in later childhood, including decreased reading readiness at four years and problems in concentration and conscientiousness through seven years of age.
The study also showed infants of mothers who had viral infections and higher choline levels had significantly increased 3-month IBQ-R scores against infants of mothers who had viral infections and lower choline levels. Choline levels sufficient to protect the fetus often require dietary supplements.
The increased maternal anxiety and depression in the viral-infected mothers were not associated with their infants' IBQ-R Regulation.
According to the study, phosphatidylcholine or choline supplements along with other prenatal vitamins may help buffer the fetal brain from the possible detrimental impact of Covid-19 and decrease the risk of future mental illness.
"Previous pandemics have resulted in significantly increased levels of mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, autism, spectrum disorder and attention-deficit disorder in the offspring," said study researcher Camille Hoffman.