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Mechanism for Choline in Brain Function Identified

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A report published in the April 2004 issue of the Journal of Neurochemistry revealed a mechanism of action for choline in brain development.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reported five years ago that choline played a critical role in brain function by benefiting the brain’s physical development. In the current University of North Carolina research, the effect of choline on human neuroblastoma tissue was studied to find out why the vitamin increases the reproduction of brain stem cells. It was found that choline inhibited cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 3 genes, which keep cells from dividing. Study coauthor and professor and chair of nutrition at the UNC schools of public health and medicine, Dr Steven H. Zeisel , explained: “We found that if we provided them with less choline , those nerve cells divided less and multiplied less. We then went on to try to explain why by looking at genes known to regulate cell division. We showed that choline donates a piece of its molecule called a methyl group and that gets put on the DNA for those genes. When the gene is methylated , its expression is shut down.”

Conversely, the undermethylation of the gene which can occur in choline deficient conditions switches the gene on, retarding cell division. Dr Zeisel added, “Nature has built a remarkable switch into these genes something like the switches we have on the walls at home and at work. In this very complicated study, we’ve discovered that the diet during pregnancy turns on or turns off division of stem cells that form the memory areas of the brain. Once you have changed formation of the memory areas, we can see it later in how the babies perform on memory testing once they are born. And the deficits can last a lifetime.”

Source: Life Extension (online at www.lef.org)

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