Choline

Nonessential Micronutrient

OVERVIEW

Summary

Choline has a key role in proper nerve impulses, so researchers conclude it may help slow the effects of age-related memory loss, improve reaction times, and reduce fatigue. Choline also supports liver efficiency and helps it dispose of “trapped” fats.

Other names for Choline

phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylinositol, lecithin, PC

Where to find Choline

Rich sources of choline include eggs yolks, meats, and organ meats (such as liver); cauliflower, cabbage, and lettuce; and grains, legumes (such as soybeans), brewer’s yeast, and nuts.

Small amounts of lecithin, which contains choline, are added to processed foods to improve texture.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS

Why athletes use Choline

If your goals include keeping your brain functioning optimally, improving your exercise performance times, lowering your cholesterol levels, or simply keeping your liver healthy, choline is one nutrient science supports. It may be especially helpful for people who put increased stress on their livers and should be considered any time over-the-counter or prescription drug intake or environmental toxins are increased.


Ways that Choline can enhance Fat Loss:
  • Support liver health by improving fat metabolism in the liver
Ways that Choline can enhance Energy & Endurance:
  • Enhance stamina by stimulating nerve impulses and improving reaction times
Ways that Choline can enhance Mental Functioning:
  • Improve memory by accelerating the formation and integrity of cell membranes in the brain

HEALTH BENEFITS

Signs of Choline deficiency

Deficiency of Choline has been linked to:

  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Liver disorders
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Reduced nerve transmission
Potential uses for Choline

Research indicates that Choline may also be useful in the treatment of:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Tardive dyskinesia
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Bipolar disorder (manic depression)
  • Liver disorders
  • Herpes

DISCUSSION

More about Choline

Cells in our brains communicate with each other and with the rest of our nervous systems by releasing chemical signals called “neurotransmitters.” This is what allows us to think, act, and even contract our muscles. As we age, we can experience a reduction of up to 70% of the chemical signals that are important to proper physical and mental functioning. Because choline appears to accelerate the synthesis and release of one of the most important neurotransmitters (acetylcholine), researchers have theorized that it may help slow the effects of age-related memory loss and possibly support natural reaction times and normal brain activities.

Exercise performance and stamina

Researchers have noted significant drops in choline levels in the blood after strenuous exercise and have theorized this drop is correlated with muscle fatigue and impaired performance. Several studies confirmed the decrease in choline levels resulted in decreases in acetylcholine, which translated to slower nerve impulses, slower reaction times, and increased fatigue.

In one study, runners who supplemented with choline shaved an average of 5 minutes off their times over a 20-mile course compared to runners who took a placebo. In another study, swimmers who took supplemental choline improved their times compared to a placebo group.

Support a healthy liver

In addition to its role in supporting brain function and exercise performance, choline also plays a critical role in shuttling fats out of the liver. The liver is an important and hard-working organ in the body: it cleanses the blood (much like a filter), metabolizes nutrients, produces the clotting factor in blood, and is involved in proper immune functioning. This filter is key when we drink alcohol or take drugs, including over-the-counter meds such as aspirin, for example. It metabolizes these substances, both good and bad, and sends them where they’re needed or helps the body properly dispose of them.

Without choline, fats can become trapped in the liver, where they impair metabolism. A recent study found that people whose diets are deficient of choline develop what is referred to as a “fatty infiltration” of the liver, leading to liver dysfunction. For that reason, choline is highly recommended for a wide variety of liver disorders, such as acute and chronic hepatitis, alcohol-induced fatty liver, cirrhosis of the liver, and drug-induced liver damage. It may, in fact, even help regenerate damaged liver cells.

Lower cholesterol levels

Choline’s ability to move fats in and out of cells has been shown to promote healthy cholesterol levels. Researchers believe choline helps prevent cholesterol from attaching to cell walls, thereby increasing the solubility of cholesterol, removing the cholesterol from tissues, and making the blood less “sticky,” so the blood flows through the arteries more easily.

A study of patients with elevated cholesterol levels found supplemental choline dropped total cholesterol levels an average of 33%, dropped triglycerides 33%, and raised (HDL) “good” cholesterol levels by 46%. In addition, 15 clinical trials undertaken in Germany revealed choline lowered total serum cholesterol by an average of 8.8%.

More therapeutic benefits

Choline, as a Vitamin B-like compound, also plays a key role in supporting proper nerve function and has, more recently, shown promising results for improving brain function in people with Alzheimer’s disease and bipolar disorder (or manic depression) during manic phases.

In conclusion

If your goals include keeping your brain functioning optimally, improving your exercise stamina, lowering your cholesterol levels, or simply keeping your liver healthy, choline, or phosphatidylcholine, usually taken in the form of a high-potency multivitamin or B-complex, is a nutrient science distinctively supports. It may be especially helpful for people who put increased stress on their livers and should be considered any time over-the-counter or prescription drug intake or exposure to environmental toxins are increased.

NOTES ON USAGE

Amount

The average daily amount is reportedly between 500 and 1,000 mg. However, doses range from 300 to 5,000 mg daily.

For liver health, 350 mg taken 3 times a day is recommended.

For lowering cholesterol, 350 to 900 mg taken 3 times a day.

For improved mental functioning, up to 5,000 mg per day.

These amounts, however, should be taken under the supervision of a nutritionally oriented physician.

Note

Choline is rarely taken in its pure, straight form (except when small amounts are included in a multivitamin or B-complex formula). As a single nutrient, it is usually found as a supplement under the names phosphatidylcholine or phosphatidylinositol. The above amounts refer to these forms.

Timing

Choline supplementation is most beneficial when divided into three doses and taken with meals. It is most often supplemented with other B vitamins, especially inositol.

Synergists of Choline

B vitamins, such as pyridoxine (B6), cobalamin (B12), inositol, and folic acid (B8).

Safety of Choline

High amounts, over 3,000 mg per day, may lead to reduced appetite, gastrointestinal disturbances, and nausea.

Large amounts of straight choline may cause a “fishy” body odor, but this is not caused by the other forms of choline, phosphatidylcholine or phosphatidylinositol.

Toxicity of Choline

No known toxicity.

Bans and restrictions

None reported.

RELATED RESEARCH

  • Brook, J.G., et al., “Dietary Soya Lecithin Decreases Plasma Triglyceride Levels and Inhibits Collagen- and ADP-Induced Platelet Aggregation,” Biochem Med Metabol Biol 35.11986) : 31-9.
  • Canty, D.J., and Zeisel, S.H., “Lecithin and Choline in Human Health and Disease,” Nutr Rev 52.10 (1994) : 327-39.
  • Cohen, B.M., et al., “Lecithin in the Treatment of Mania: Double-Blind, Placebo Controlled Trials,” Am J Psychiatry 139.9 (1982) : 1162:4.
  • Conlay, L.A., et al., “Decreased Plasma Choline Concentrations in Marathon Runners,” N Engl J Med 315.14 (1986) : 892.
  • Levy, R., et al., “Early Results from Double-Blind, Placebo Controlled Trial of High Dose Phosphatidylcholine in Alzheimer’s Disease,” Lancet 1.8331 (1983) : 987-8.
  • Rosenberg, G., and Davis, K.L., “The Use of Cholinergic Precursors in Neuropsychiatric Diseases,” Am J Clin Nutr 36.4 (1982) : 709-20.
  • Wojcicki, J., et al., “Clinical Evaluation of Lecithin as a Lipid-Lowering Agent,” Phytotherapy Res 9 (1995) : 597-9.
  • Zeisel, S.H., et al., “Choline, an Essential Nutrient for Humans (see comments),” FASEB J 5.7 (1991) : 2093-8.