May 01, 2013

Enables pregnant women in The Gambia to deliver healthier babies

A mother and child in The Gambia
A mother and child in The Gambia

Would giving choline supplements to pregnant women in The Gambia improve fetal brain development and future cognitive functioning?

Dr. Steve Zeisel
Dr. Steve Zeisel

Dr. Steve Zeisel’s proposal to discover the potential has made him and the UNC Nutrition Research Institute a Grant Challenges Exploration winner. The initiative is funded by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to explore ideas that “break the mold” in solving global health and development challenges.

Choline is critical to fetal brain development. Women in developing countries like The Gambia eat one-half to one-third of the recommended amount of choline, and these areas also report suboptimal fetal and child growth. Could providing choline supplements to pregnant women improve their babies’ lives?

“If we show positive results, the program could be expanded throughout sub-Saharan Africa, Jamaica and other low-income countries where diets do not deliver adequate choline. We’re hoping to improve how children perform in school and enhance their lives,” Zeisel says.

In The Gambia, a 4,007-square-mile West African country that knifes through Senegal, 106 of every 1,000 children die before the age of 5 (U.N., 2010).

–Ramona DuBose

Carolina Public Health is a publication of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health. For more information visit


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