Choline: Sources, Health Benefits, Deficiency, Side effects, RDA


In this article we explore what is Choline, its health benefits, side effects, deficiency symptoms, best foods for Choline and recommended daily intake. Choline is a nutrient that is often associated with Vitamin B complex due to its similarities and the way it helps other B Vitamins.

What is Choline

Choline is a compound similar to that of the B vitamins. Although the body produces a certain amount of choline, it must also be obtained through the diet, as its role as a building block of cells and in the process of metabolizing fat into energy is extremely important.

Choline is a nutrient essential for proper brain function. It was only recently (1998) added to the list of essential nutrients by the National Academy of Sciences.

It is not technically a B vitamin, but it is often included in the B vitamin family because it works closely with other B vitamins, especially folic acid (vitamin B9), and cobalamin (vitamin B12), to process fat and keep the heart and brain healthy.

Related: Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): Sources, Health Benefits, RDA, Deficiency, Side effects

This substance can be produced in the body, but it is also present in various foods, such as liver, nuts, citrus fruits, legumes, eggs, chicken, wholemeal bread, bananas, soy, fish, vegetables.

One of the main actions of choline is the synthesis of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter used in brain functions, for example memory, consciousness, creativity, muscle control.

Choline Sources

Choline is produced in small quantities by our body but it is necessary to take a larger amount daily through the diet. It is found in a variety of foods, the main source being egg yolk.

Other foods containing choline are:

  • shrimps,
  • shellfish,
  • soy,
  • broccoli,
  • cauliflower,
  • asparagus,
  • spinach,
  • liver,
  • cod,
  • sardines,
  • tuna,
  • chicken,
  • turkey,
  • mushrooms,
  • tomatoes,
  • flaxseed,
  • peas,
  • Choline is found in large quantities in human milk, and high levels are also found in the serum of pregnant women.

Best Choline Food Sources are:

Beef Liver 68 gr290 mg
Chicken Liver 68 gr222 mg
EggA Large Egg113 mg
Cod 85 gr248 mg
Salmon 110 gr62,7 mg
Broccoli 118 ml31,3 mg
Cauliflower118 ml24,2 mg

Choline Health Benefits

Choline is essential for many functions of the body such as:

  • The proper gallbladder and liver function
  • Lecithin formation
  • Hormone production and regulation of the central nervous system.
  • Cholinet contributes to the smooth functioning of cell membranes
  • Choline contributes to the prevention of homocysteine accumulation in the blood
  • Choline is also responsible for the synthesis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine required for brain function and memory,
  • Choline protects the liver from fat accumulation,
  • It is very important for a healthy brain development in infants
  • It is also reducing inflammation in the body
  • It helps prevent breast cancer development.
  • There is evidence that increasing the acetylcholine content in the brain with choline supplements results in improved memory, particularly in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Choline Deficiency

In case of choline deficiency in the body, there is an increase in adipose tissue, an increase in pressure, stomach ulcers, liver and kidney dysfunction, while in embryos it has an adverse effect on growth.

Some studies have shown that choline is also involved in the metabolism of homocysteine, so it is also beneficial for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.

Choline deficiency is also associated with liver and/or muscle damage along with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, according to the NIH.

”Fat accumulation in the liver could become progressively worse and potentially lead to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, a condition that suggests significant inflammation and damage to liver cells” – says Kevin Pietro, MS, RD, clinical assistant professor of bidiatrophology at the University of New Hampshire

a dozen eggs
– Egg Yolk is one of the best sources of choline

Choline Side Effects

The maximum recommended intake from the diet for adults is 3,500 mg. Part of the ingested choline is absorbed intact, probably by means of a mediator-carrier mechanism. The remainder is metabolized by the gut flora to trimethylamine, which has a fishy odor.

Thus if the consumption of choline exceeds 10 grams per day, the body may emit a fishy smell. However, large doses in the form of lecithin (marketed as a dietary supplement) generally do not cause this odor because the metabolism results in little trimethylamine production.

More severe symptoms occur due to excessive cholinergic transmission when doses of more than 10 g per day are ingested (diarrhea, nausea, dizziness, sweating, depression, salivation and increased P-R interval on electrocardiogram).

Recent studies, however, have shown that choline increases the risk of thrombosis even in quantities that are not high. This is because it increases levels of a chemical produced by gut bacteria called N-trimethylamine oxide (TMAO).

This has the effect of increasing the tendency of platelets to form clots. High levels of TMAO in the blood have been linked to a higher risk of blood clots, heart attack and ischemic stroke.

A study involving 18 volunteers (eight were vegetarians) receiving 450 mg of choline daily from supplements resulted in a tenfold increase in their blood levels of N-trimethylamine oxide. Note that aspirin and a component of olive oil reduce the formation of TMAO – aspirin also reduces clotting.

Choline Daily Requirements

The recommended daily intake is 425 mg for women and 550 mg for men.

AgeDosage Per Day
0-6 months125 mg
7-12 months150 mg
1-3 years200 mg
4-8 years250 mg
9-13 years375 mg
14-18 years (Women/Men)400/550 mg
Women 18+425 mg
Men 18+ 550 mg
Pregnant Women450 mg
Breastfeeding Women550 mg

Choline And Pregnancy

The choline that an expectant mother receives during pregnancy plays a major role in the brain development and function of children, according to a new scientific study conducted by researchers at Cornell University.

According to the findings published in The FASEB Journal, adequate choline intake during pregnancy ensures cognitive benefits for the child throughout his or her life.

As the researchers note, the choline requirements of the pregnant woman’s body are increased, yet many women do not receive the recommended 450 mg per day.

As part of the study, the 26 participants, who were in their third trimester of pregnancy, were randomly divided into two groups: half received 480 mg of choline per day and the other half received 930 mg.

a dish with salmon
– Salmon is another excellent source of Choline

The diets of the two groups of women were identical to ensure that they received the same nutrients and that any differences in the health outcomes of their children would be attributed solely to choline.

When the women’s children were 4, 7, 10 and 13 months old, the researchers administered specific tests to assess their information processing speed and visuospatial memory. These tests have been shown to be directly related to IQ in childhood and later.

The performance of children from the group of women with an increased intake of choline (930 mg per day) was better than that of children in the group of women who received slightly more than the recommended amount of choline (480 mg per day).

Based on their findings, the researchers recommend that the current recommendation for the amount of choline pregnant women should take should be changed to achieve better cognitive outcomes in their children.

Best Choline Supplements

If you are looking to supplement yourself on Choline, here are some of the best Choline Supplements available in the market today.

Final Take

Choline is an essential nutrient for both men and women. It must not be taken at large doses because of fears of blood clotting. If you consume moderate amounts – e.g. 2 – 4 eggs per day, you choline intake will be super beneficial to your health.

By the way, if you’ve found this article on what is choline interesting and helpful, feel free to share it with your loved ones on social media.

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