In 1998, the Institute of Medicine officially recognized choline as an essential nutrient. Its function within the body is complex. Choline is an organic compound which can be soluble in water. It is not a mineral, nor a vitamin. However choline’s function is similar to vitamin B. Despite having plenty, your body needs to get choline from your diet to prevent a deficiency. It is used in the body in many chemical reactions. Choline tends to be an essential factor in the nervous system. Choline can help reduce swelling and inflammation in asthma.
Since choline is a newly discovered nutrient, therefore, there is not enough evidence to determine the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA).
According to research done by the Institute of Medicine adequate intake (AI) values for choline is:
- 0–6 months: 125 mg per day
- 7–12 months: 150 mg per day
- 1–3 years: 200 mg per day
- 4–8 years: 250 mg per day
- 9–13 years: 375 mg per day
- 14–19 years: 400 mg per day for women and 550 mg per day for men
- Adult women: 425 mg per day
- Adult men: 550 mg per day
- Breastfeeding women: 550 mg per day
- Pregnant women: 450 mg per day
That value is meant to be adequate for most stable individuals, allowing them to prevent deficiency-related adverse effects such as liver damage.
Choline rich food sources
Choline is found in a wide variety of foods.
|Chicken, liver, cooked (3 oz)||247|
|Soy flour, defatted (1 cup)||201|
|Salmon, sockeye, smoked (3 oz)||187|
|Egg, whole, raw, fresh (1 large)||125|
|Quinoa, uncooked (1/2 cup)||60|
|Chicken, broilers or fryers, meat, and skin, roasted (3 oz)||56|
|Turkey sausage, cooked (3 oz)||55|
|Wheat germ, toasted, plain (2 tbsp)||50|
|Milk, nonfat, fluid, with added vitamin A (8 ounces)||38|
|Cauliflower, cooked, boiled (1/2 cup)||24|
|Peas, green, frozen, cooked, drained (1/2 cup)||22|
|Bacon, pork, cured, cooked (2 pieces)||20|
|Almonds (1 oz)||15|
|Broccoli, cooked, boiled, drained (1/2 cup)||15|
|Frankfurter, beef (1)||15|
|Oat bran, raw (1/2 cup)||15|
|Pecans (1 oz)||15|
|Tomato paste, canned (2 tbsp)||12|
|Flaxseed (2 tbsp)||11|
Source: USDA Database for the Choline Content of Common Foods, Release Two, January 2008; USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 20.
Soy lecithin is a food additive that is commonly used and contains choline. Consequently, extra choline is likely to be ingested via the diet through food additives. Lecithin can be purchased as a substitute, too. Lecithin, however, appears to contain just 10–20 percent of phosphatidylcholine.
Several studies suggest that choline may reduce body fat in nutritional supplements, although there is little to no evidence to support these claims.
Functions and benefits of choline
Choline can enhance the role of memory, boost brain growth, and relieve anxiety and other psychiatric illnesses. The proof is inconsistent, however.
Here are some health benefits of choline:
- The development of acetylcholine requires choline, a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in regulating memory, mood, and intelligence. It’s also required for the DNA synthesizing process, which is essential for brain function and development.
- Getting choline by mouth tends to alleviate certain people’s symptoms and the number of days that asthma is a concern. This also tends to minimize the need to use bronchodilators.
- Recent evidence shows women who have a lot of choline in their diet have a reduced chance of delivering babies with neural tube birth defects.
- Some research indicates that choline can play a role in developing and treating some mental health conditions.
- Some evidence shows women who eat lots of choline could have lower breast cancer risk.
- It’s essential to make a substance possible to extract cholesterol from the liver. Inadequate choline can induce the accumulation of fat and cholesterol in your liver.
- To make fats that support the structural integrity of cell membranes, choline is required.
Deficiency of Choline
While choline deficiency is rare, some people are at elevated risk.
- Pregnant women – During pregnancy, demands of choline increase. This is most likely due to the production of the unborn baby which needs choline.
- Alcohol addictive – Alcohol will increase the choline requirements and the risk of deficiency, especially at low intake.
- Athletes – Choline levels drop during long endurance workouts, for example, marathons. It’s uncertain if taking supplements would boost results.
- Postmenopausal women – Estrogen makes the body generate choline. Although the estrogen levels appear to decline in postmenopausal women, they may be at elevated risk of deficiency.
Deficiency in choline can lead to the following health conditions:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Muscle loss
- Memory trouble
- Neural tube irregularities
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Mood disorder
Choline plays such a critical role in fat transport since fat can stagnate in the liver and cause fatty liver disease if not enough.
Too much choline
Choline can cause some adverse effects when used in high doses, including nausea, body odor, vomiting, elevated body temperature, sweating, excessive salivation, low blood pressure, and damage to the liver.
Researchers found that high levels of phosphatidylcholine intake (from foods such as eggs, red meat, and fish) were associated with increased mortality, particularly in those with diabetes, in a large observational study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2016.
One study found that women have an increased risk of colon cancer when eating a diet that contains a lot of choline. However, it also takes further studies to assess the impact of diet on colon cancer.
Make it a priority to get a minimum of 4-5 portions of high-choline foods per week, and check your combination supplements and nootropic choline stacks on the nutrition label before you add them. You may already be taking choline without even knowing it.