Are you getting enough choline?
If you often feel mentally clouded and forgetful or fatigued and lethargic, you might want to see if you’re getting enough choline. The answer is probably not. But you’re not alone, according to the Journal of American College of Nutrition, 90% of Americans are not meeting the daily recommendations of choline with their diet alone. The benefits of choline are widespread throughout your entire body, affecting your liver health, cell messaging, muscle movement, heartbeat, and even your memory.
What is Choline?
Choline is a recently discovered nutrient, only officially recognized by the Institute of Medicine in 1998. Choline is categorized as an essential nutrient, meaning it is required for normal bodily function and human health. Your body makes some choline, but you also need to get choline from your diet to ensure your levels are sufficient. Choline is technically not a vitamin or mineral but is often grouped with B vitamin complex because of the similarities they share.
What does Choline do?
Choline has many different functions in the body:
Choline is used to make fats to support the structural integrity of cells.
It is used in the production of compounds that act as cell messengers.
Choline is essential for creating a substance needed to remove cholesterol and fats from the liver, which assists the liver in functioning properly and smoothly.
The process of DNA synthesis is furthered by choline and other vitamins.
Choline is very important for prenatal health and propper levels of choline prenatally have been linked to a lowered risk of chronic diseases later in life.
A vital neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, can only be made with the presence of choline. Acetylcholine is involved in muscle movement, regulating heartbeat, memory, and other basic functions.
Choline and Brain Function:
As stated above, choline is a fundamental component of the chief neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is used throughout the nervous system. It is used by the nerves to signal the heart, making choline essential to regulate the heart rate at rest. Acetylcholine is also needed for the brain to signal other muscles throughout the body. Too little choline during exercise can slow down signals from the brain reaching your muscles, which results in making you tire faster. Arguably most importantly, acetylcholine is used as a chemical messenger within the brain, making it vital for memory, recollection, and normal cognitive function.
Choline deficiency has been linked to brain abnormalities seen in people with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disorder, as seen here. The same study saw that choline served as a neuroprotective agent in several experimental models of damage to neurons.
Another study suggested that “adequate concentrations of choline in the brain are believed to protect against age-related cognitive decline and certain types of dementia… including Alzheimer’s Disorder.” Researchers in this study demonstrated that brain volume, neuron efficiency, and neuronal transmissions are all dependent on adequate choline levels.
A third study examined the post-mortem brain of people that died from Alzheimer’s Disorder and found decreased choline levels throughout the brain. This furthers the belief that sufficient choline levels in the brain can prevent forms of dementia like Alzheimer’s Disorder.
How to Get Enough Choline?
The recommended daily intake of choline is 550 mg a day. Foods with the highest levels of choline are as follows:
Beef liver, cooked (362 per 4 oz.)
Shrimp (135.4mg per 100g)
Eggs* (293.8mg per 100g)
Chicken breast (117mg per 100 grams)
Fish (112.6mg per 100 g)
Pork Chops (89.9mg per 100g)
Beef (77.8mg per 100g)
Navy Beans (44.7mg per 100g)
Broccoli (40.1mg per 100g)
Green Peas (29.7mg per 100g)
Low-fat milk (16.4mg per 100g)
*Choline is found in the yolks of eggs, very little choline is in egg whites.
Eating two whole eggs per day will give most people half of the choline they need. However, the origin of an egg will affect how much choline and other vitamins are in the yolk.
Pasture-raised eggs contain up to 10x more nutrients than conventionally raised eggs. A good rule of thumb for knowing how much nutrients is in your egg is to look at the color of the yolk, the darker it is the more nutrients it contains. Cooking your eggs actually damages choline and other vitamins in the yolk; eating your eggs runny will help preserve the valuable nutrients.
Eating a variety of meats and green vegetables will also help you meet your choline levels. For vegans or vegetarians, it might be necessary to take a supplement of choline every day. But most people may need to take a choline supplement to ensure their levels stay in the desired range.
How To Supplement.
Citicoline: Citicoline is cytidine-diphosphocholine. It is also called CDP choline and has a tremendous amount of evidence for brain benefit and should be considered first-line when considering choline supplementation.
The cytidine molecule helps with absorption in the gut. There are concerns that too much choline in the gut can interact with specific bacteria and produce TMAO. Elevated levels of TMAO have been linked to cardiac issues including atrial fibrillation and even possibly Alzheimer's. Citicoline is less prone to conversion to TMA which is part of why it is likely a superior form of choline for supplementation, but it also has been better shown to cross the blood brain barrier.
Typical dose: 250-500 mg 2 times per day depending on genomics and what treating. The European Union sets the targeted supplementation dose as 250 mg/ twice a day, expanding as well to 1000 mg for special medical purposes (post stroke etc)