Have You Heard About Choline?

The Basics

Choline is a water-soluble nutrient compound. It is an essential nutrient which means that our bodies need it to function normally and to achieve optimum health. Interestingly, our livers can in fact make small amounts of choline. However, in most cases this is not enough to provide what our body needs, and the short fall must be made up by consuming adequate amounts of choline through our diets.

The Importance of Choline for Health

The evidence base in regard to the importance of choline has grown significantly in the past decade. It is now known that choline is required for several key functions that are essential to maintain the proper functioning of our cells, organs and metabolism. Some key functions choline is needed for include:

  • Liver function.
  • Brain function.
  • It is precursor nutrient to make the brain chemical known as neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is important for functions such as memory, muscle movement and regulating our heartbeat.
  • Lipid metabolism.
  • Maintenance of our cell’s membrane.
  • Cellular membrane repair and messaging.
  • Foetal development and neurocognitive development.
  • Placental health.
  • Nervous system health
  • Proper DNA synthesis.

Who is at Risk of Choline Deficiency?

There are certain groups of people that are known to be at risk in not consuming adequate dietary intakes of choline or need to supplement with higher amounts. These include vegetarians, vegans, pregnant and lactating women and diets that are high in processed foods. Choline deficient diets are known to cause disease and predisposes people to a range of health issues, including:

  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
  • Muscle damage.
  • Cognitive decline.
  • Low maternal intake during pregnancy increases the risk of neural tube defects and cleft palates. During pregnancy and lactation, the developing foetus and infants demand for choline is extremely high rapidly depleting maternal stores.
  • Impaired growth.
  • Impairment in kidney, liver and pancreatic function.

What Foods Contain Choline?

Animal-based foods have the highest choline content, however there is a range of foods that do contain choline and can fit into everyone’s desired diet pattern. Some of these foods include:

  • Eggs, beef, chicken, beef and chicken liver, fish, pork and milk.
  • Cruciferous vegetables, wheat germ, oat bran, dried soybeans and peanuts.

Final Word

The recommended minimum intake for choline depends on many different factors including age, general health and overall everyday food choices. In clinical studies, choline has been demonstrated to cause low blood pressure and gastrointestinal upsets when consumed in extremely high oral supplement doses. Therefore, it would be advisable to seek qualified assistance especially in relationship to determining if you need to increase your choline intake or need to take a supplement.

Changes to your diet or nutrition to manage a health condition should only be undertaken with advice from a suitably qualified nutritional health professional.

This factsheet is for general information only. Please contact me to discuss your individual needs.