Choline is technically a “vitamin-like factor,” although it sometimes is referred to as a B vitamin. The body can produce a small amount of choline, but we also must get some either from our diet or a supplement. Choline is an essential part of all body tissues.
Some of the best sources of choline are:
- Beef liver
- Chicken liver
- Peanut butter
- Nuts, particularly:
- Macadamia nuts
- Pine nuts
- Green leafy vegetables
- Iceberg lettuce
- Brussels sprouts
- Grape juice
- Whole milk
- Whole-wheat bread
- Wheat germ
- Oat bran
- Milk chocolate
- Decaffeinated instant coffee powder
You need choline because it:
- Is a part of an important neurotransmitter that is necessary for:
- Muscle movement
- Regulation of pain
- Helps to maintain the structure of cellular membranes
- Aids in the transmission of nerve impulses
- Assists in the absorption of fat
- Is necessary for the removal of fat and cholesterol from the body
- Reduces chronic inflammation
- Is a part of lung surfactant
- Is necessary for the kidney’s control of water balance within the body
Choline also may help:
- Keep short-term memory loss from occurring in people with Alzheimer’s disease
- Prevent cardiovascular disease
- Relieve symptoms of Huntington’s disease in high doses
- Decrease total cholesterol, while favorably increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels
- Prevent gallstones
- Improve liver function
- Decrease the risk of developing liver cancer
- Decrease sensitivity to carcinogenic chemicals
- Reduce the risk of neural tube defects
Signs and symptoms of choline deficiency
The following are the signs and symptoms of choline deficiency:
- Fatty liver and liver damage
- Muscle weakness
- Tingling in the fingers and toes
The following individuals are at risk for choline deficiency:
- Strict vegetarians
- Endurance athletes
- People who drink alcohol
- Men and postmenopausal women (choline deficiency more likely than in premenopausal women)
The upper limit of toleration for choline is 3.5 grams (g). Symptoms of choline toxicity include:
- Fishy body odor
- Excessive salivation
- Excessive sweating
- Low blood pressure
The US Institute of Medicine recommends an adequate daily intake of 550 milligrams (mg)/day for men and 425 mg/day for women.
References and recommended readings
Egg Nutrition Center. Eggs are an excellent source of choline. Available at: http://www.enc-online.org/factsheet/Choline.pdf. Accessed October 27, 2008.
George Mateljan Foundation. Choline. Available at: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=50. Accessed October 27, 2008.
Howe JC, William JR, Holden JM. USDA database for the choline content of common foods. Available at: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/Data/Choline/Choline.pdf. Accessed October 27, 2008.
Oregon State University, Linus Pauling Institute. Choline. Available at: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/othernuts/choline/index.html#function. Accessed October 27, 2008.
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Choline. Available at: http://nutritionservices.upmc.com/NutritionArticles/Vitamins/Choline.htm. Accessed October 27, 2008.
Wood M. B vitamins choline and folate scrutinized. Available at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2001/010330.htm. Accessed October 27, 2008.
Review Date 12/08