Monday, May 16, 2011

How Much Choline Do We Need?

Choline has become a popular topic in nutrition recently with many supplement companies and health experts promoting it. But what is choline and why do we need it?

Picture of yogurt
Yogurt

Choline has been grouped together with the B vitamins. It is considered a conditional essential nutrient because while the body can synthesize choline from the amino acid methionine, without food sources of choline the body cannot make enough to meet its needs. Fortunately, choline is found in many foods either as free choline or more commonly as part of lecithin. Good sources of choline are eggs, seafood, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, milk, yogurt and nuts.

Choline is part of every cell in our bodies. It promotes brain health, nervous system function and is important in fetal development of the brain and spinal chord. Choline is unique in that it has a water soluble end and a fat soluble end, making it a great emulsifier. Many food companies use lecithin, which has choline, to blend such products as mayonnaise, dressings, sauces and candy. Because of this, choline supplements are generally not necessary.

Choline deficiencies are very rare, but result in the development of a fatty liver and eventual liver damage. Adequate intake set by the Food and Drug Administration is 425 mg a day for adult women and 550 mg a day for men. The upper limit for choline is 3,500 mg a day. Symptoms of choline toxicity are body odor, sweating, excessive salivating, reduced growth rate and low blood pressure. Just as with a choline deficiency, too much over time will cause liver damage.

So before you buy in to this recent nutrition trend, just know that you are most likely getting enough choline in your diet to help your body stay healthy. Visit The World’s Healthiest Foods to find out more about choline.

— Kelly Cantrell, dietetic intern, and Debra A. Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.

FALL 2015
Have questions about a program?
Request information »

More Health Tips

You can save money and preserve the flavor of your nuts, oils and whole grains by keeping them cool.

It's easy to hand your compost over to Seattle's curbside pickup program, but why give away your valuable scraps when you can use them to add nutritents to your own garden?

Even though cold and flu are caused by a different type of virus, the symptoms can be similar.

Celebrate American Heart Month and Valentine’s Day by learning more about these herbs that can help keep you heart healthy.

Many people know miso primarily as a tasty Japanese soup. But miso’s flavor-enhancing properties make it a great everyday ingredient to use in soups, sauces, marinades, dressings and even sweets.

Choosing a chocolate bar can be overwhelming. There are so many options, so how do you know what to pick?

Subscribe to Newsletters

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
4 + 4 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.