What Is Choline? (And Where To Find It In Everyday Nutrition)

Make Well - what is choline

This article is intended for customers from all countries other than Germany*

It seems like every day there is a new health supplement hitting shelves that promises to fix all ailments and make you the healthiest version of yourself. With many trendy gimmicks mixed in with herbal remedies that actually work, it can be hard to tell what is good for you in the long run.

Choline isn’t one of those new ‘magic’ health tricks. Although it was only fairly recently discovered (around 1998), it’s the real deal when it comes to helping you on your journey to wellness. This naturally occurring nutrient offers many health benefits and occurs in the body without any supplementation. But although the body holds its own store of choline, many people do not get the amount they need.


What is choline?

To know what choline is, you must first understand what it’s not. It isn’t a vitamin or a mineral. The compound that makes up choline is an essential nutrient with similar properties to that of the Vitamin B family. It is often grouped together, although it stands in a league all its own. This organic compound is water-soluble and is made in the liver.

The nutrient is highly effective in liver function and metabolic function and is used by the body to help synthesise lipids in the cell membranes. It is also used in neurological function by creating acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that helps keep the brain and nervous system running smoothly. It’s often used by pregnant women to help stimulate foetal brain development.


What are the health benefits of choline?

Since choline is naturally produced in both humans and animals, it is essential for the proper functioning of many systems throughout the body. Without the proper amount of choline, a person is more susceptible to many health issues. When you get the recommended daily intake of choline, good things happen. For an adult male, 550 mg is the recommended daily amount; an adult female would need around 450 mg. This changes if a woman is pregnant or breastfeeding, though, as she would then need roughly the same amount as men do.

Some studies suggest that the use of choline can help improve cardiovascular health. It does this by reducing blood pressure at the same time as maintaining a healthy level of fat in the heart. When it comes to its neurological properties, choline aids in the structure of neurons, which could help elderly patients with cognitive impairments. It could also help slow the progression of dementia in Alzheimer’s patients, but more research on this topic is needed for the claim to be conclusive.


Make Well - heart health
Image by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash: Choline is an essential nutrient that is needed for optimal heart health.


One study out of Norway showed a link between better cognitive function in adults and higher choline intake. Things such as motor function, memory and a lower level of white matter hyperintensity were all associated with a higher choline intake.


Choline for liver function

For people who avoided alcohol on a regular basis, choline was seen to decrease the build-up of lipids in the liver, which led to a decreased risk for liver cancer, liver failure, cirrhosis, fibrosis and steatohepatitis. These conditions are especially prevalent in people that are overweight or obese, with over 65% of overweight people and 90% of obese people being diagnosed with one of these ailments.

Choline works in the liver by ridding the organ of lipids, ensuring that fat does not accumulate over time and cause problems with liver function. Women of childbearing age have extra protection against liver problems because of their high oestrogen counts, but almost half of women suffer from a genetic variation that makes them more at risk.


Where to find choline in everyday nutrition

Although the body produces its own choline, most often it’s not enough to maintain healthy levels of this essential nutrient. The good news is that choline is found in many foods, some of which are probably in your fridge right now. So, which foods are high in choline? Most meats, especially beef liver, are packed with choline. Around 85 grams of beef liver has around 65% of the recommended daily intake needed.

Eggs (1 large egg) and top round beef (85 grams) are also very high sources of choline, coming in at over 20% of the daily intake recommendation. Other lean meats, fish, dairy and nuts also provide a good amount of choline per serving. Certain vegetables such as kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and mushrooms all contain choline in small amounts.


Make Well - meat
Image by Victoria Shes on Unsplash: The best way to get choline through diet is by eating enough lean meats such as beef.


Choline can also be taken in supplement form on its own or in a B-complex vitamin, but there are several different forms of choline that can be taken as a supplement. Although the different properties of these supplements haven’t been explored in studies, if your diet doesn’t provide you with enough, it’s important to try to ensure that you’re getting your recommended daily dose of choline.

Featured image by Michael Longmire on Unsplash