Our bodies are capable of great and many things, and there are many vitamins, nutrients, and other elements that fuel us each and every day. Choline is one of those elements. Choline is an organic, water-soluble compound, and is an essential nutrient. It is neither a vitamin nor a mineral, but it does help the body function normally. While your liver can make small amounts, you must obtain the majority of choline through your daily diet.
Choline has many impacts across your body. It impacts liver function, healthy brain development, muscle movement, your nervous system and metabolism.
Choline is a key contributor in removing cholesterol from your liver, and inadequate choline levels may result in fat and cholesterol buildup in your liver.
It is often grouped with the vitamin B complex due to regulating metabolism. Like vitamin B12 and folate, choline also helps with a process that’s important for DNA synthesis.
Brain Development and Nervous System
Choline’s role in the nervous system is to make acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate heartbeat, memory, mood, muscle movement, and other basic functions.
So it’s important to consume adequate amounts of choline for optimal health.
Below are the recommended adequate intakes of choline, followed by a list of foods rich in choline:
The recommended adequate intake for men and women ages 19+ years is 550 mg and 425 mg daily, respectively. While the recommended adequate intake for pregnancy and lactation is 450 mg and 550 mg daily, respectively.
Foods rich in choline are meat, fish, poultry, dairy, and eggs. In particular:
- Beef, beef liver
- Egg yolks
- Chicken breast
- Shiitake mushrooms
- Legumes (beans, peanuts)
- Cruciferous vegetables (kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage)
- Sunflower seeds
A single egg supplies about 20–25% of your daily requirement. In fact, two large eggs provide almost half of the choline your body needs. Also consider that a single 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of beef kidney or liver can supply all of a woman’s daily requirement and most of a man’s.
Not Enough Choline
Recently published studies show that over 90% of Americans are deficient in Choline so saying it's RARE is contrary to findings.
A US national survey, NHANES 2007-2010, which surveyed 16,444 individuals four years and older, reported a high prevalence of inadequacies: 91.7% for choline.
Nonetheless, being deficient in this area is unhealthy, and can cause harm to your liver. Below is a list of who may be at risk of choline deficiency:
Endurance athletes: Choline levels fall during long endurance exercises.
High alcohol users: Much the same way that alcohol drains your hydration levels, alcohol can increase choline requirements and your risk of deficiency in this area, as well, especially when your intake is low.
Postmenopausal women: Estrogen helps produce choline in your body. Since estrogen levels tend to drop in postmenopausal women, they may be at greater risk of deficiency. For postmenopausal women a deficiency could result in liver or muscle damage.
Pregnant women: Choline requirements increase during pregnancy. This is most likely due to the unborn baby requiring choline for development, and a low intake may raise the risk of neural tube defects in unborn babies.
Maternal prenatal nutrition and the child's nutrition in the first 2 years of life (1000 days) are crucial factors in a child's neurodevelopment and lifelong mental health. Child and adult health risks, including obesity, hypertension, and diabetes, may be programmed by nutritional status during this period.
The Right Stuff
A deficiency in choline and its harms may be rare, but many people may not be meeting the recommended intake, and thus, experiencing the numerous benefits that choline offers. An increase in choline is as simple as enjoying whole eggs, kale, fish, etc. as part of a balanced diet.