Does eating fry ups when you’re pregnant really boost your baby’s intelligence?

Headlines suggest a full English breakfast can improve your baby's IQ: but what's the real story?

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We’ve seen a fair few headlines today that suggest eating fry-ups when you’re pregnant can increase your baby’s IQ (woo hoo – pass the egg and bacon, right? ? )

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But as with lots of these stories, there’s usually a more sensible, slightly less sensational story behind the tabloid tales.

We do know that bacon and eggs contain choline – which is needed for baby’s brain development in the final trimester of pregnancy.

And in a new study, where 26 women were divided into 2 groups – one set given 450 mg of choline, the other set given 930 mg of choline a day in the last 3 months of pregnancy – the babies of the women who had more choline performed better in speed and visuo-spatial memory tests (said to correlate with IQ) at 4, 7, 10 and 13 months.

So there is some truth in these headlines, but it’s worth noting that the ‘fry-up’ line is a bit of a catchy pitch, and that choline is, in fact, in lots of foods, including:

  • egg yolks
  • bacon
  • offal, like liver and kidneys
  • milk
  • broccoli
  • wheatgerm
  • fish
  • spinach and other green leaves
  • cauliflower 

– which means most of us probably eat enough of it even if we don’t indulge in a regular full English.

Earlier choline studies on mice

Scientists at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill* found that choline is essential for the healthy development of unborn babies’ brains.

They studied the effects of choline in mice and found that mice mums who had too little choline in their diet had babies with fewer blood vessels in their brains. If a developing foetus has too few blood vessels, the brain will not develop properly.

Many nutrition experts are confident that most women get plenty of choline from food, but some studies have suggested that as many as one in four women may be deficient. So what should mums-to-be be tucking into on a regular basis? will all help increase important levels of choline say the experts.

*Report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal

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