Choline, although not technically a vitamin, is an essential nutrient and is sometimes included in the vitamin B complex.
Choline is a primary component of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter with the main function of relaying nerve impulses in the nervous system and muscles. It is also a component of the phospholipid, lecithin.
Why you may need choline
High cholesterol – choline is a component of the phospholipid, lecithin which is important for the metabolism of fats into energy. It assists in the regulation of fats and cholesterol.
Memory deficits – choline is a component of the phospholipid, lecithin, which is a constituent of all tissues and organs especially the brain. Phospholipids along with proteins form an insulating myelin sheath around the axons of nerves. This insulates the nerves and protects them from damage.
Asthma – studies have found that choline can decrease the severity and frequency of symptoms in patients with asthma.
Neural tube birth defects – studies indicate that a choline rich diet at conception is linked to a reduced risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect.
How much do you need?
Adequate Intake levels are:
Adults (over 19 years): 425mg (women), 550mg (men) daily
Pregnancy: 440mg daily
Breastfeeding: 550mg daily
Children 9-13 years: 375mg daily
Children 14-18 years: 400mg (girls), 550mg (boys) daily
Symptoms of deficiency
Symptoms include memory loss, abnormal liver function such as liver cirrhosis, fatty liver, hardening of the arteries, impaired kidney function, high blood pressure and bleeding stomach ulcers.
The best dietary sources of choline include lecithin, liver, brewer’s yeast, egg yolk, wheatgerm, brown rice, wheat, barley, soya beans, kidney, brain and peanuts.
Other reasons why you may need more
Excessive intake of alcohol and coffee can place extra demand on the liver, kidneys and nervous system thus increasing your demand for choline.
Excessive doses of choline can produce a fishy body odour due to metabolism by the gut flora. Other symptoms from excessive doses include diarrhoea, nausea, dizziness, sweating and salivation.