What is Choline?
Choline is an essential nutrient that is included in the group of B-vitamins. Strictly speaking, it is not a vitamin, since it is produced in small amounts within the body, whereas vitamins are substances that are not synthesized in the body. However, in 1998, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recognized it as a nutrient that must be obtained from the diet to maintain health.
Most of the choline found in the body is contained in fat molecules called phospholipids, most of which are called lecitihin or phosphatidylcholine. These molecules are important as structural components of cell membranes.
Choline is also a precursor (a compound that reacts with another compound to form another substance) for acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in memory, muscle control, and other functions. It also participates in the transport and metabolism of fat, as well as in cell-signaling and in preventing imflammation.
Choline Food Sources
Egg yolks are known to be a rich source of choline. Milk, liver, soybeans and peanuts are also very rich sources of phosphatidylcholine (lecithin), which contains about 13 percent choline. Other food sources sources include bananas, butter, cauliflower, legumes, flax seeds, sesame seeds, oranges, potatoes, tomatoes, and whole grain cereals like barley, oats, corn, and whole wheat. Processed foods may contain lecithin, which may add to one's daily consumption of choline.
Choline plays a major role in many bodily functions. The following are the benefits of choline:
As part of the structural components of all cell membranes, it is essential for cellular structure, tissue growth and tissue repair.
It facilitates transport of nutrients into the cell and the passage of waste products out of the cell.
It plays an important role in various brain functions, as a component of a brain chemical called acetylcholine.
It particpates in cell-signaling between nerves and muscles.
It helps regulate gallbladder function.
It helps regulate liver function and prevents liver damage.
It facilitates the transport and metabolism of cholesterol and fat.
It helps prevent the accumulation of homocysteine, a substance associated with heart disease.
Studies show that a diet rich in choline can help reverse liver damage, reduce the risk for breast cancer, and reduce chronic inflammation associated with diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis and other conditions.
Choline Side Effects
According to national surveys, it is estimated that adults consume an average of 730 to 1,040 mg of choline per day from their regular diet. This amount is way below the upper intake level (UL) for adults established by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) of the Institute of Medicine, which is considered tolerable, at 3.5 grams per day. However, overdosing from taking high doses of choline vitamin supplements (10 to 16 grams/day) may cause side effects such as abdominal discomfort, increased salivation,...