Choline, Vitamin B

Choline is often referred to as an "unofficial member" of the B vitamin family. Although choline can be manufactured in the body from either the amino acidmethionine or serine, it has recently been designated as an essential nutrient. Choline works very closely with other B vitamins, performing a vital function in the proper utilization of fats. Without choline, fats become trapped in the liver. Technically, this is called lipotropic effect. Choline is also required to make the important neurotransmitter acetylcholine and main components of our cell membranes such as phosphatidylcholine (lecithin) and sphingomyelin. Choline is vital during critical periods in brain development. The normal human diet provides sufficient choline to sustain healthy organ function. Growing infants, pregnant or nursing women, people with liver diseases, and patients fed intravenously may develop choline shortage.

Choline is widely distributed in foods and is consumed mainly as lecithin (phosphatidylcholine). Lecithin is a common additive to processed foods. It serves as a good stabilizer and emulcifyer. Choline chloride and choline bitartrate are added to infant formulas to assure equivalency to breast milk. Good sources of choline are egg yolks, organ meats, legumes and lecithin.

Choline quick calculator - There is no RDA for choline. Some experts consider 550 mg/day to be an adequate intake. To compensate a possible low level of choline, make sure your food includes healthy portions of organ meats, egg yolks, oranges, peanuts and cauliflower. Here is a selection of some foods containing total amount of choline and phosphatidylcholine:

  • Liver, beef (3.5 oz) - 532 mg
  • Liver, chicken (3.5 oz) - 290 mg
  • Egg, large (1) - 251 mg
  • Wheat germ (3.5 oz) - 152 mg
  • Bacon (3.5 oz) - 125 mg
  • Dried soybeans (3.5 oz) - 116 mg
  • Pork (3.5 oz) - 103 mg
  • Beafsteak (3.5 oz) - 68 mg
  • Orange, medium(1) - 28 mg
  • Cauliflower (1/2 cup) - 22 mg
  • Potato, medium (1) - 10 mg
  • Milk, whole (1 cup) - 9 mg
  • Iceberg lettuce (1 oz) -9 mg
  • Tomato, medium (1) - 6 mg
  • Bananas (1) - 3 mg

Choline deficiency - Choline shortage in humans is very rare. Strict vegetarians who consume no milk or eggs may be at risk of inadequate choline intake.

Choline supplementation - Choline salts, such as choline chloride and choline bitartrate are available as supplements. High doses (10 to 16 grams/day) of choline have been associated with a fishy body odor, vomiting, salivation, and increased sweating. A dose of 7.5 grams of choline/day may have blood pressure lowering effect, which could result in dizziness or fainting. Individuals taking methotrexate, a medication used in the treatment of cancer, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis, may have an increased choline requirement.

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