December 02, 2008
Choline During Pregnancy Slows Rat Breast Cancer

At least if you are a rat (and some people are) if your mom consumed a lot of choline during pregnancy she probably slowed the development of eventual breast cancer.

A stunning discovery based on epigenetics (the inheritance of propensities acquired in the womb) reveals that consuming choline—a nutrient found in eggs and other foods—during pregnancy may significantly affect breast cancer outcomes for a mother's offspring. This finding by a team of biologists at Boston University is the first to link choline consumption during pregnancy to breast cancer. It also is the first to identify possible choline-related genetic changes that affect breast cancer survival rates.

"We've known for a long time that some agents taken by pregnant women, such as diethylstibesterol, have adverse consequences for their daughters," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "But there's an upside. The emerging science of epigenetics has yielded a breakthrough. For the first time, we've learned that we might be able to prevent breast cancer as early as a mother's pregnancy."

The researchers made the discovery in rats by studying females whose mothers were fed varying amounts of choline during pregnancy. Different groups of pregnant rats received diets containing standard amounts of choline, no choline at all, or extra choline. Then the researchers treated the female offspring with a chemical that causes cancer of the mammary gland (breast cancer). Although animals in all groups developed mammary cancer, the daughters of mothers that had received extra choline during pregnancy had slow growing tumors while daughters of mothers that had no choline during pregnancy had fast growing tumors.

So if you see a pregnant rat feed it some hard boiled eggs. Think of the children.

Seriously though, suppose we eventually get sound advice for what dietary factors during pregnancy will influence eventual cancer risk. Will this do any good? I don't think so. If we know by 2015 what is the best cancer-minimizing diet during pregnancy the result will be to protect against diseases that won't develop until 2045 and mostly much later. By 2045 I will be very surprised if cancer isn't totally and easily cured.

What would be more useful to know: Does choline consumption decrease breast cancer risk if the choline consumption is started later?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 December 02 11:31 PM  Aging Diet Cancer Studies

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