A healthy mind resides in a healthy body. To keep the body fit and healthy we add supplements and nutrients to our regular diet. The supplements not only help us to stay active but also provide the energy required to perform various physical and mental activities.
A perfect diet should consist of all the five basic nutrients-Carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, fats and proteins. Various vitamins help with the different functions of the body. Choline is a vitamin, which is similar to B-vitamins, in fact it is the latest addition to the family of B-Vitamins.
History of Choline
Choline is a nutrient, which has been a subject of research for the last 150 years. It was officially added to the criteria of B-Vitamins around 1930 when a group of scientists found out that a substance present in the tissues of the human liver was capable of preventing a fat upsurge. This substance was named Choline due to its functionality. Later on, it was discovered that not just the liver but also every cell of the human being contained Choline.
What is Choline? (in detail)
Choline is a dietary constituent, which helps in better functioning and creation of new cell membranes. This is similar to Vitamin–B and is very effective in both humans and animals. Choline is produced naturally in the human body, but not in sufficient quantity. In order to maintain a balance between the production and consumption of Choline you must take additional Choline as supplements either in your normal diet or as a pill.
Choline has three Methyl groups attached to it, which make it trimethylated. Methyls enable the smooth functioning of cells. The circulation of these components within the body has a great impact on mental health and cell development. Its fat restricting quality helps to transport the fat-based and the water based substances throughout the body. It is due to the presence of Choline that waste products flow in and out of the cells.
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Functions and Benefits of Choline
Choline not only supports Methyl group activity but also performs other functions such as managing the activities of the nervous system, maintaining cell membranes and controlling chronic inflammation.
Managing the Nervous System:
Nerves form the biggest network in the human body. They transmit messages from the brain to various parts and vice versa. The contact between the nerves and the muscles is initiated by a special chemical called acetylcholine. This works as a transmitter, which sends and receives messages amid the muscles and the nerves. Due to the presence of this ingredient, Choline is believed to help in the improvement of the neuro-muscular condition in Alzheimer’s patients. To some extent, Choline helps to overcome fits and epilepsy if the supplement is taken in the correct quantity regularly, as prescribed by the doctor.
Maintain the Function of Cell Membranes:
The brain controls the whole body. It is connected to various parts via nerves, veins and cell membranes. Cell membranes are mostly made up of fats. If the fat becomes excessive the flexibility and functioning are interrupted. Phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyelin are the two important constituents of the membranes that require Choline supply. Usually people with any kind of brain disease are prescribed limited doses of Choline.
Control Chronic Inflammation:
We live a fast life where one does not have time to stop and eat healthy food every day. Those quick bites and fast foods do not have nutritious value and can cause inflammation, acidity and many other discomforts. Not just minor problems can be ignored, they lead to many other major diseases or aggravate the present illness. Choline or ingredients in Choline help to control this inflammation and associated problems. Regular doses not just cure the malady but also prevent it from repeating.
Sources of Choline Food
Though most of the food items we include in our daily diet contain Choline in small proportions, it is not sufficient for the whole body. Although this supplement is associated with the B-vitamin, do not try to substitute it with Choline. There are specific food items, which are rich in Choline content:
- Navy Beans
- Peanut Butter
- Whole wheat
- Soybeans (in any form)
Soybeans in any form and beetroots are the best sources of Choline for vegetarians. Non-vegetarians can choose from fried beef liver and ground beef. Eggs are a common and major source of Choline, which can be had by both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. About 500mg of Choline per day is recommended for an average adult. A few Choline supplements may cause body odor but this can be avoided if Lecithin is taken along with the dose. For children the doses are recommended as per their age and weight.
Other sources rich in choline:
- Sesame seeds
Choline has extensive benefits and functions that enhance the performance of various parts of the body. However, the symptoms of the deficiency of Choline are yet to be identified clearly. Just vitamin supplements and nutrients are not enough to cover up Choline deficiency. This component is responsible for healthy liver functioning and normal activities of the other parts of the body. If avoided or taken inadequately Choline deficiency can lead to liver disorders and malfunction. Fatty acids and substitutes will be deposited in the liver and cell membranes, which could lead to grave consequences if left untreated. Researchers have proved that patients with nerve disorders, liver malfunctioning and brain related diseases that are treated with Choline get healthier and better with regular doses of the supplement.
Choline controls high blood levels of the molecule Homocysteine, which prevents the smooth function of the heart. It breaks up the deposits of Homocysteine and allows it to flow free in the body.
Symptoms of Choline Deficiency
A slight deficiency of Choline can be identified by a few symptoms such as sleeplessness, fatigue, frequent memory loss, concentrated urine and nervous disparity. Extreme deficiency symptoms can range anywhere from poor growth, liver dysfunction, infertility, anemia, respiratory problems, impaired bone formation and more. Malfunctioning of any single part can affect the other parts in due course, which can lead to fatal consequences. The liver is the first part of the body where a Choline deficiency will manifest. If this problem is treated in time, it can save you from multiple negative outcomes.
When the Choline level decreases, there will be a drop in the blood’s levels of lipoprotein (VLDL-very low density lipoprotein). This is a fatty molecule, which helps in carrying the fat from the liver to other parts of the body. The deficiency of Choline can cause unevenness of other fats in the blood, which are called Triglycerides.
Overdose and Side Effects of Choline
Infants in the age group of 0-12 months require around 125-150 mg of Choline whereas children above 1 year and below 8 years require 200-250mg of Choline. As they grow up boys and men require more of this nutrient compared to girls and women. While boys of age group 9-18 years require 375-550mg, girls of the same age group can manage with just 375-450mg of Choline.
Choline is closely associated with Folic acid. Deficiency of Choline could lead to the deficiency of the later. Therefore, it is very important for pregnant women and lactating mothers to have enough Choline in their diets. A pregnant woman would need at least 450mg of the nutrient to support the growth of herself and the fetus in her womb. The milk secreted by a lactating mother contains all the nutrients required for the growth of the new born. Such mothers should see that they maintain a balance in their diet and include all nutrients in their food. They require at least 550mg of Choline.
An excess of anything is dangerous. While deficiencies of certain nutrients create an imbalance in the body, a surplus of Choline can cause variations in blood pressure, restlessness, diarrhea or foul body odor. Any medicine becomes a toxin if you overdose. The suggested upper limit dosage for an average adult per day is just 3.5 grams.
If that dosage exceeds up to 5-10 grams in any form, it might lead to dizziness, restlessness, nausea or low blood pressure. A further increase in the dosage, say more than 10-15 grams a day would lead to heavy perspiration, vomiting, salivation and fetid body smell. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
What leads to Choline Deficiency?
Poor nutrition, imbalance in the diet, previous history of liver disease, prolonged medication and intake of Choline content itself cause Choline deficiency. Alongwith Choline 3 other nutrients that act as supporting factors are amino acid methionine, Folic acid and Vitamin B-3. Poor intake of any of these can also lead to a drop in the level of Choline. A mild slump does not have adverse effects but an extended deficiency can cause serious ailments.
Those who have undergone bypass surgery, kidney transplants and any kind of liver surgery have to be careful about the level of Choline in their body. Methotrexate is a drug used to treat people suffering from cancer, psoriasis and arthritis. If you are taking this medication try to keep your Choline levels balanced or else it could add more to your existing woes.
Choline-a Mandatory Requirement
While a healthy body itself demands regular attention, what does an unhealthy body say? Regular Choline intake becomes a mandatory activity for those suffering from hyperhomocysteineimia, brain disorders, cardio vascular problems, memory loss, Neuro muscular disorders, anemia and high blood pressure. Newborns are prone to autism, respiratory problems and other nervous disorders if pregnant mothers do not take sufficient Choline. Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s are three prominent diseases, which are caused by a malfunctioning brain, which could be due to an insufficient supply of Choline.
SAM cycle is a chemical cycle, which keeps the body in working condition. Sufficiency of Choline is as important as the adequacy of other nutrients such as Folate, Vitamin B-3, 12 and Amino acids. All these elements constitute the SAM cycle. The molecules present in this cycle are constantly exchanging chemical elements, which are also called Methyl Groups. The role of Choline here is to keep the Methyl Groups functioning properly. Thus all the nutrients are interconnected and required to function together to achieve balance.
After egg yolks, soybeans are the second richest supplement of Choline. Soybeans in any form can be considered as a rich supplement of Choline.
The level of the nutrients greatly depends upon the diet taken by the people of a particular location. The diets followed by the people of the US do not have much Choline in it. Much of it is derived from emulsifiers. One of the commonly used emulsifiers is lecithin or phosphytidylcholine. This ingredient is made of soybeans.
Clinical Uses of Choline
Parenteral nutrition, which includes an Amino acid glucose solution, does not contain sufficient Choline. This solution is used to treat human beings to maintain their plasma Choline level. People who undergo this treatment are provided with parenteral nutrition therapy, which includes 1 to 1.7 mmol of Choline contained phospholipids.
Just as a deficiency of Choline causes various imbalances in the human body, excesses of it also create problems. A Choline deficient diet leads to a drop in the phosphatidylcholine concentrations and plasma Choline levels. This happens when a person is exposed to strenuous and stressful activities such as long distance running, hectic physical work or any other vigorous labor. To evaluate the Choline nutritional status in a person he or she is fed Choline deficient food for about a week. After this time, the serum alanine aminotransferase activity is measured to calculate the status.
1. Soy Lecithin Granules are a wonderful Choline supplement. You can also get these supplements in the form of tablets or capsules. You can get them anywhere in your neighbourhood stores or on the internet. Just make sure that you store them in the refrigerator, or else they will go stale quickly and lose their nutritional value.
2. DMAE is another supplement, which helps in increasing concentration power, memory and the retention capacity of the brain. Although the benefits of DMAE are the same as Choline this works quicker. Studies are being conducted to explore the possibilities of treating ADHD and other brain disorders using DMAE.
A deficiency of Choline is not common, but in certain cases, it can cause organ dysfunctions as discussed earlier. Remember that those who are under Niacin treatment require additional doses of Choline, as the medication tends to drain the nutrients from your body. The recommended Choline supplementary per day is 1 gram. If the dose is increased, it creates adverse affects on your body.
Choline as a Sports Supplement
What if you got a supplement, which could help you to increase your potential as a sportsman? Something, which could help you cover long distances in a short time. Wouldn’t it be great if you could pop a pill or wolf down some granules to gain additional strength to win a match?
Well Choline is the answer to all of your questions. This essential nutrient is present in vegetables, fruits, nuts, soybeans, milk and egg yolks. An athlete or a Marathon runner who has adequate Choline in his diet can cover more miles in a smaller amount of time compared to others. Nerve cells use Choline to produce a chemical called acetylcholine. This enables the cells to interact with each other and establish a close-knit network. Acetylcholine is the main ingredient, which controls the commands given by the brain. A sportsman can run only when this chemical stimulates the brain cells to order the muscles to do so.
The nerves thrust small amounts of acetylcholine in the intersections between the nerves and the muscles. When this chemical touches the muscle cell, it is ignited and starts the process of contraction and expansion. Likewise, every cell of the leg muscle is commanded by acetylcholine to keep working. So intake of supplements rich in choline certainly helps to boost your level of performance on the tracks.
By the time you complete a marathon, remember the choline levels in your body drops to zero. To avoid this Choline supplements should be taken just before the event. Just 2 grams of Choline before the race would increase the level of efficiency.
Effect of Choline on Basketball Players
While Choline’s efficiency is proved in athletes’ performances, a study was carried out on basketball players. They were put on Choline supplements for a week. Although most of them felt refreshed, no special influence was observed on their leaping ability. Although they did not feel tired after their practices and experienced less fatigue before the matches, nothing abnormal was noticed. Yes, two of the team members did experience diarrhea, which is one of the most common side effects of Choline intake.
Effect of Choline on Swimmers
Swimmers do a great many workouts. After every workout of about half an hour it is observed that the blood’s Choline level drops down to 22% to 32 %. The Choline intake boosts it up to 27% to 33%.
All the statistics collected are based on the experiments conducted on the sportsmen of different categories. A Choline supplement is required for every sportsman as the level of this nutrient drops after vigorous and strenuous exercise and workouts. Not only do physical exercises have an impact on Cholin consumption, but also, people who are involved in mental jobs require choline supplements for additional energy. Though choline is present in ample amounts in the food we eat on a daily basis, supplements are essential when you exert more stress on your body.
Lecithin is a good source of Choline. Athletes consume this as a part of their diet to improve their performance. Research carried out long ago states that Lecithin is a good source of Choline whereas the present day scientists prove this wrong. Only 4% Choline is present in Lecithin, which does not make it a rich source.
Choline increases your potential to run long races but is not effective in short races. So an extra dosage of Choline will not improve your performance when playing indoor games or swimming regular distances.
Choline in Animals
Choline is effective not only in human beings but also has a few effects on animals. It increases nerve impulse transmission, cell signaling and Lipid or fat transport. More or less the symptoms and side effects in animals are similar to that of humans.
The Role of Choline in Child Development
Choline plays an important role in the cognitive growth and brain development in children. Shortly after the birth of a child, the new mother is recommended extra doses of Choline so that it can be passed to the infant through the breast milk. For growing kids Choline supplements act as energy boosters, which enhance mental and physical performance. As per research, only 1 out of every 10 American gets sufficient Choline.
Choline in Disease Prevention
As per the studies conducted by scientists, the presence of homocysteine in the blood aggravates the chances of cardiovascular attacks. The study conducted on rats concluded that the deficiency of Choline in the regular diet increases chances of liver cancer and sensitivity to carcinogenic chemicals. Choline supplements prevent pregnancy and post delivery complications in both the mother and the infant. Due to insufficient Folic acid and Choline, fetal disorders and birth defects could take place in unborn babies.
Another experiment conducted on kids of various age groups reveals that the ones including a regular intake of Choline in their diet developed sharp memory and cognitive skills. For an overall healthy development of a child, Choline in any form should be given daily as a part of the diet. Choline bitratrate and Choline chloride are the two supplements, which are rich in Choline.
If Choline can help the nervous system,therefore can it help persons suffering with Myasthenia Gravis? and is it safe to say that it should also be give as well along with the medication.
I’m 76 and have taken vitamins/supp. since the 50’s; I’ve also been in gyms since 1957 – in fact I’m about to leave for the gym. Considering my age and background, what would be a good amt. of choline to take? Is it better to take with Inositol? Would appreciate your input. Thanks, T. Smith
I’ve read that choline can be instrumental in the repair of the “myelin sheath” membrane that envelopes the axon nerve in the ear. What has research proven about that ?
I am very interested in choline deficiency research, and I have wondered about the link between choline deficiency and autism. I have a son with severe autism, and I believe that I was deficient during pregnancy and while breast feeding. I noticed your comment about the deficiency causing newborns to be prone to autism. I am very interested in your knowledge of choline and what research you have found or what has led you to this possibility. I think the ramifications of this deficiency are huge, and I would love for this nutrient to become much more known to the public as well as required in prenatal vitamins and infant formulas. Please feel free to check out my page on LinkedIn under Kathryn Pierce and I have started a Facebook and Twitter page called Choline For Life. I would love to chat! Feel free to email me anytime. Thanks!
I suffer from inflammation of a botched total knee replacement. I am doing research to see if this will work on my inflammation. My crp levels which are tested weekly go up and down. I;m on my way to the health food store to pick their brain