What is Choline?
We bet you haven’t heard of choline before. But before you write off this little-known nutrient here are a few fast facts about choline and women’s health (even men’s health) that you should know.
Health Benefits of Choline
— Choline is an essential macronutrient for women of childbearing age because, much like folic acid, it is critical for brain development in babies and infants. Studies show that women who didn’t get enough choline upped the risk of giving birth to a baby with neural tube defects by four times. Therefore, choline benefits for women are indispensable for those starting a family.
— This B-vitamin-like nutrient is in the same family as other B complex vitamins like folate. Just like its cousins, it plays a key role in supporting energy, firing up metabolism and boosting brain function. Choline and weight loss are related primarily because the macronutrient produces a faster rate of lipolysis which translates to you burning more fat than you typically would at your regular metabolic rate.
— Choline is very important for sound liver health as it transports fats like cholesterol and triglycerides from the liver to the other cells in the body. This macronutrient also cleanses the liver and keeps fat from building up in the liver which may lead to conditions like fatty liver. Low levels of choline may result in liver damage or even liver failure.
— LDL cholesterol or “bad” cholesterol is formed by the liver using choline. Despite its negative reputation, it is needed in a certain amount to avoid the liver from storing fat.
— Probably choline’s most important function is the fact that it is a major player in the process of methylation. This process is what creates DNA, carries out nerve signaling and detoxifies the body. Choline also regulates the functioning of the very important neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which controls nervine communication and sends out chemical messages for muscle movement. Acetylcholine also functions as an anti-aging neurotransmitter and performs other important processes.
Symptoms of Choline Deficiency
It’s quite possible that you aren’t getting enough of choline in your diet. The bad news is that even though you might eat a choline-rich diet, some of the nutrient is actually absorbed. Due to certain factors, the average person just doesn’t get ample choline from their food to meet the daily recommended quota.
Signs of a choline deficiency may include:
- Low energy levels and weakness
- Memory problems
- Cognitive irregularities
- Learning disabilities
- Muscular pain
- Nerve damage
- Mood swings
How Much Choline Per Day
While scientists are still debating about the actual amount needed per person, it might be a good thing to know if you are suffering from a choline deficiency. The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine recommends a daily allowance of choline for adults at 425 mg for females and 550 mg for males.
Foods High in Choline
Strict vegetarians and vegans who don’t consume milk or eggs may find it hard to get enough choline from their diet. In these cases, a supplement or choline-fortified foods can help balance the gap.
Selected Food Sources of Choline (milligrams per serving)
|Chicken, liver, cooked (3 oz)||247|
|Soy flour, defatted (1 cup)||201|
|Salmon, sockeye, smoked (3 oz)||187|
|Egg, whole, raw, fresh (1 large)||125|
|Quinoa, uncooked (1/2 cup)||60|
|Chicken, broilers or fryers, meat and skin, roasted (3 oz)||56|
|Turkey sausage, cooked (3 oz)||55|
|Wheat germ, toasted, plain (2 tbsp)||50|
|Milk, nonfat, fluid, with added vitamin A (8 ounces)||38|
|Cauliflower, cooked, boiled (1/2 cup)||24|
|Peas, green, frozen, cooked, drained (1/2 cup)||22|
|Bacon, pork, cured, cooked (2 pieces)||20|
|Almonds (1 oz)||15|
|Broccoli, cooked, boiled, drained (1/2 cup)||15|
|Frankfurter, beef (1)||15|
|Oat bran, raw (1/2 cup)||15|
|Pecans (1 oz)||15|
|Tomato paste, canned (2 tbsp)||12|
|Flaxseed (2 tbsp)||11|
Source: USDA Database for the Choline Content of Common Foods, Release Two, January 2008; USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 20.