Have You Even Heard of This Essential Nutrient?

Choline helps in brain development
Eat Eggs to Increase Choline Intake

Choline

Choline is an essential nutrient needed by humans and the shocking part is that most of us have not even come across this name in our life. It’s high time that we divert our attention to this water-soluble vitamin-like essential nutrient. Critical for brain development, choline is like the B vitamins and is found in foods such as fish, live, muscle meats, nuts, beans, peas, spinach, wheat germ and eggs.

Why was Choline Unfamiliar to Many of Us Until Now?

The primary reason for the unfamiliarity with this nutrient is that, choline is abundant in foods that are not so popular such as liver, egg yolks and lima beans. There was also the assumption that choline was made in the human bodies and there was no need of any dietary intervention. As this nutrient is critical to many metabolic pathways, our bodies make a small amount but not enough to fulfil requirements. Even experts in the health-care field were unaware of the importance of choline and this nutrient was classified under the ‘essential nutrients’ category only in the year 1998.

So, Why Are People Interested in Eating Choline?

After authentic data have been available on the health benefits of choline, individuals are eager to consume this nutrient.

  • Choline can cure liver disease caused by exclusive vein feeding (parenteral nutrition). Injecting choline intravenously (IV) cures this type of liver disease. It is also said to help the liver expel fat, thus preventing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
  • Many pregnant women are aware of the advantages of folate consumption during the childbearing years, but are unaware of the effects of choline on pregnant women. Certain research indicates that women who consume a diet rich in choline around pregnancy time are at an increased advantage of decreased risk of neural tube defects in the baby. Choline performs a similar role to DHA in being advantageous to the membranes of the nervous system cells.
  • Choline is said to play a critical role in asthma patients. Increased choline intake is said to lessen asthma symptoms and decrease the number of days that it continues as a problem in these patients. There is also a reduced need of bronchodilators. Certain evidences also show that increased choline intake (3 grams daily) is more effective than a decreased (1.5 grams daily) intake.
  • Though people with Alzheimer’s disease, cerebellar ataxia, schizophrenia and memory loss consume choline with the mindset of reducing theses disease symptoms, it is said to be mostly ineffective. There is no clear evidence to prove improved athletic performance in individuals who consume more choline before an event.

How Much Choline is Safe for Consumption?

Choline is ‘likely safe’ for most adults when taken by mouth or given intravenously. But, consuming high doses of choline is ‘likely unsafe’ for adults leading to side effects such as sweating, fishy odour, gastrointestinal distress, diarrhoea and vomiting. Some studies even exist on the impact of high doses of choline on colon cancer, but further research is needed in this field. Children should also stick to the recommended doses of choline to prevent any health complications.

Tabulated here are the recommended levels of choline:

Category Adequate Intake (AI) (mg per day)
Men & breast-feeding women 550
Women 425
Pregnant women 450
Children 1-3 years 200
Children 4-8 years 250
Children 9-13 years 375
Infants under 6 months 125
Infants 7-12 months 150

The Daily Upper Intake Levels (UL) that is not likely to cause harm include:

Category UI (grams per day)
Children 1-8 years 1
Children 9-13 years 2
Children 14-18 years 3
Adults over 18 years of age 3.5

Asthma patients can consume 500−1000 mg of choline thrice a day.

Meet choline requirements by including a variety of vegetables and meats in your diet. Consume more of egg-based foods, milk and wheat germ along with your other foods to reach the daily recommended choline values. Every person acquires different choline levels into the body depending on his/her food habits. A registered dietitian nutritionist at www.firsteatright.com is the best person to support you with information on choline-rich foods and suggest a choline supplement if you are unable to meet the required levels.

It’s high time that we start seeing choline in Nutrition Fact labels in the packaged foods. We are also sure to witness choline-fortified foods that would enable consumers to easily fulfill the daily required doses.

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