Choline: Underconsumed, underappreciated and undervalued
Choline is an essential nutrient naturally present in certain foods, especially animal products such as liver, salmon and eggs. Although humans produce some choline in the liver, the amount is not sufficient to meet the body’s requirements.
There is currently a strong and growing body of evidence for the need to increase choline intake. A study published in May 2016 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, found that 90% of Americans aren’t getting enough choline in their diets. This led to the recent publication of a Recommended Daily Intake of 550 mg for adults. Since most people in the United States consume less choline than they need to prevent deficiency, choline supplementation has become an important consideration for those seeking optimal health and wellness.
Choline is needed for many different metabolic functions, including normal muscle function, liver health and early brain development. The body requires choline to make phospholipids, which are vital for cell membrane integrity and nerve myelination. As a component of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, choline supports memory, mood and muscle control.* Choline also helps modulate gene expression, cell membrane signaling, and lipid transport and metabolism.*
Groups at increased risk of choline deficiency include pregnant women, vegetarians and those with genetic variations involving the metabolism of choline, folate, and methionine. The American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics have both recently reaffirmed the importance of evidence-based amounts of choline for pregnancy and lactation. Choline is in high demand during pregnancy for fetal brain development and in general for cell membranes and tissue production. Human breast milk is rich in choline for infant brain and nervous system development. Preliminary research suggests that a higher maternal choline intake during pregnancy, and possibly lactation, may have lasting neurocognitive benefits for the offspring.*