WHAT IS CHOLINE?
Choline is an essential nutrient that promotes good liver health and plays a key role in fat metabolism. Whilst it is not technically a vitamin, it is often unofficially classified as a water soluble, B complex vitamin. In this article I will be discussing choline in greater detail.
WHEN WAS CHOLINE DISCOVERED?
Choline was discovered by Adolph Strecker in 1862 and chemically synthesised in 1866. In 1946 further research revealed that a diet lacking in choline caused liver cancer in rats. However, it was not until 1998 that choline was classified as an essential nutrient for humans by the National Academy of Sciences and adequate intake (AI) levels were established.
HOW DOES YOUR BODY USE CHOLINE?
Choline is stored in the liver and also found throughout the body in cell membranes. As I discussed above, choline is crucial for liver health and fat metabolism but it also has many other roles in the body. The list below provides some of the main functions of choline in the body:
– Maintaining healthy cell membranes.
– Promoting brain and memory development in growing fetuses and newborn infants (in conjunction with vitamin B9).
– Protecting you from a build up of homocysteine (a harmful compound that can cause heart disease and osteoporosis) in the blood.
– Protecting you from nervous system disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease.
– Reducing chronic inflammation.
– Reducing the risk of breast cancer in women.
– Supporting fat metabolism.
– Supporting nervous system activity.
HOW MUCH CHOLINE DO YOU NEED?
Our requirement for choline increases as we age and peaks when we enter adulthood. Whilst our bodies can make some choline, the amount it produces is not enough to meet our daily needs. Because of this the National Academy of Sciences established daily adequate intake levels for choline in 1998. These are listed below in milligrams (mg):
– Children aged 0-6 months:- 125mg.
– Children aged 7-12 months:- 150mg.
– Children aged 1-3 years:- 200mg.
– Children aged 4-8 years:- 250mg.
– Children aged 9-13 years:- 375mg.
– Men aged 14 years and over:- 550mg.
– Women aged 14-18 years:- 400mg.
– Women aged 19 years and over:- 425mg.
– Pregnant women:- 450mg.
– Breastfeeding women:- 550mg.
WHICH FOODS CONTAIN CHOLINE?
High protein foods are often the best source of choline although some vegetables contain high levels too. The list below contains five of the richest choline food sources:
– Beef Liver:- 426mg per 100g.
– Chicken Breast:- 85mg per 100g.
– Cod:- 84mg per 100g.
– Egg:- 172mg per 100g.
– Lean Beef:- 100mg per 100g.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF GETTING TOO MUCH CHOLINE?
Eating too much choline can be dangerous. The National Academy of Sciences has established a daily tolerable upper intake level of 3.5g per day. Consuming more than this can lead to various problems which include:
– Reduced blood pressure.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF NOT GETTING ENOUGH CHOLINE?
Failing to consume the daily adequate intake levels of choline can have a number of negative effects which include:
– Anemia (a low red blood cell count).
– High blood pressure.
– Increased heart disease risk (due to the build up of homocysteine).
– Kidney failure.
– Nerve-muscle imbalances.
– Memory problems.
– Poor kidney function.
– Poor liver function.
– Vitamin B9 deficiency.
Choline has only been recognised as an essential nutrient for humans relatively recently. However, it is needed to keep your brain, liver and nervous system functioning properly. So check your diet and make sure you are getting your daily adequate intake of choline.
Now I want to hear from you guys. Did you know much about choline before reading this article? Does your diet contain enough? Let me know by leaving a comment.