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They focused on two types of neural tube birth defects -- anencephaly and spina bifida. Anencephaly is a lethal condition in which the brain and skull don't develop, and spina bifida is a spinal-cord malformation that causes paralysis and lifelong disability.
The Stanford University School of Medicine team compared pregnancy blood samples from 80 women who gave birth to children with anencephaly and spina bifida to pregnancy blood samples from 409 women whose infants had no birth defects.
Women with the lowest blood choline levels during pregnancy were 2.4 times more likely to have infants with neural tube defects than women with average blood choline levels. Women with the highest choline levels had the lowest risk.
The study appears in the Aug. 14 issue of Epidemiology.
Primary author Gary Shaw, a professor of neonatology, noted that prenatal vitamins contain little or no choline. For women planning to get pregnant, "the best source for choline is still eating a variety of foods," he said in a university news release.
-- Robert Preidt
SOURCE: Stanford University, news release, Aug. 12, 2009
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