Sunday 17 November 2019

Choline: The New Essential Nutrient

The dietary component choline is the latest addition to the list of essential nutrients. It is an organic, water-soluble compound. It is neither a vitamin nor a mineral though, it is often grouped with the vitamin B complex due to its similarities. It is part of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter associated with attention, muscle control, learning and memory and several other functions. It impacts liver function, healthy brain development, muscle movement, your nervous system and metabolism. Humans can produce it endogenously in the liver, however you must obtain the majority through your diet or through dietary supplements.

    Functions of choline
  • Helps in foetal development: Choline is involved in several vital body processes, starting with your development as a fetus. Prenatal vitamins usually contain choline because it is critical for healthy fetal development, especially the brain and nervous system.
  • It helps the efficient use of fat: Choline has a crucial role in bringing fats out of the liver for the body. It helps the body to metabolize fats out of the liver and send it into the bloodstream so that the body can use it for energy, absorb fat-soluble nutrients, and to make brain components such as myelin. On the flipside, if fat stays in the liver, it results to fatty liver disease, which can cause pain, enlargement of the liver, extreme fatigue, and toxic overload.
  • DNA synthesis: Choline and other vitamins, such as B12 and folate, help with a process that's important for DNA synthesis.
  • Regulates healthy nervous system: This nutrient is required to make acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter. It's involved in memory, muscle movement, regulating heartbeat and other basic functions.

Who Are at Risk of Deficiency?
Although choline deficiency is rare, certain people are at an increased risk.
  • Pregnant women: Choline requirements increase during pregnancy. This is most likely due to the unborn baby requiring choline for development.
  • Postmenopausal women: Estrogen helps produce choline in the body. Since estrogen levels tend to drop in postmenopausal women, they may be at greater risk of deficiency.
  • Endurance athletes: Levels fall during long endurance exercises, such as marathons. It's unclear if taking supplements improves performance.
  • High alcohol intake: Alcohol can increase choline requirements and your risk of deficiency, especially when intake is low.


Many foods contain choline. The main dietary sources of choline consist primarily of animal-based products—meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, and eggs. Cruciferous vegetables likered-fleshed sweet potato, cauliflower, broccoli etc and certain beans are also rich in choline, and other dietary sources of choline include nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Choline is also present in breast milk and is added to most commercial infant formulas.

NB: Instead of animal products, choose fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans, which are plentiful in choline. 



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