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A Brief Overview of Choline

Updated on December 10, 2017
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Srikanth is passionate about helping people stay healthy. He believes that consuming nutritious food is the key to a long and healthy life.

What Is Choline?

Choline is a water-soluble macronutrient, a complex vitamin that is produced in the liver. It is found in the lecithin of plants and animals. Choline was first isolated in 1862 by Adolph Strecker, and was first chemically synthesized in 1865 by Oscar Liebreich.

Choline Has Received an RDI From FDA

Choline has received a reference daily intake (RDI) from FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Many people worldwide are not getting enough of this essential nutrient. This is one of the reasons why choline is gaining attention.

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Choline Is Naturally Synthesized in Small Amounts Within the Liver


Functions of Choline

Choline performs various biological functions. This essential nutrient benefits liver and heart health, prenatal development, cognition and sports performance.

Cells Need Choline

Choline regulates cell volume and protects cell integrity. It is used in the synthesis of some phospholipids that are essential structural components of cell membranes. Phosphatidylcholine is necessary for lipid transport and metabolism.

You need choline to activate acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that tells the muscles to move.... Learning new skills at the gym, like kettlebell swings or barre routines, requires attention, cognitive function, and coordination—all of which depend on choline to happen.

— Nicole Lund, R.D.N., a sports performance dietitian and personal trainer

Choline Is a Macronutrient

This macronutrient is a precursor to acetylcholine, an organic chemical that functions as a neurotransmitter. Acetylcholine is vital to nerve function and the direct signalling of muscular contractions.

Choline Prevents Many Diseases

Choline reduces homocysteine levels in the body indirectly. High levels of homocysteine is a condition that is linked to cardiovascular disease, stroke, dementia and migraines. Choline prevents many chronic diseases.

Nervous System Needs Choline

Phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyelin are choline-containing phospholipids. They are precursors for diacylglycerol and ceramide, which are intracellular messenger molecules. Choline is essential for the healthy functioning of the nervous system.

Choline is critical to so many metabolic pathways, so our body does have the ability to make some. During pregnancy, the body’s ability to produce choline is ramped up by estrogen. However, our studies and others have shown there is depletion of choline during this life stage.

— Marie Caudill, an expert on the impact of choline on maternal and infant health

Choline Promotes Strong and Healthy Bones

A human analysis on the dietary intake of choline has also discovered that it plays an essential role in bone health. Looking at diets of 5,278 participants, research scientists compared their dietary intake of choline with measurements of their bone mineral density.

Choline Actual Daily Intake

They discovered that the average choline intake was significantly lower than the daily recommended intake — 255 mg/day for women and 259 mg/day for men aged 46–49 years, and for older adults 71-74 years, the intake was 265 mg/day for women and 258 mg/day for men.

Choline Recommended Daily Intake

Compare this to the recommended 425 mg/day for women and 550 mg/day for men — that is a 160+ mg daily deficit.

The American Medical Association (AMA) supports an increase of choline in all prenatal vitamins to 450 mg/day, according to a resolution passed by delegates at the 2017 AMA Annual Meeting in Chicago earlier this month (June 2017).

Choline may labor in obscurity -- if you haven't heard of it, you're in the majority -- but it's an essential nutrient that does important work in the body.

— Harvard Health Letter

Human Cell Inspected Through a Fluorescence Microscope


Symptoms of Choline Deficiency

Hemorrhagic kidney necrosis and fatty liver are common symptoms of choline deficiency. Memory loss, tiredness, learning disabilities, cognitive decline and mood swings are other known symptoms.

Fatigue Is a Symptom of Choline Deficiency


Choline-Rich Foods

Choline is abundant in foods such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chickpeas, flaxseeds, garlic, grapes, green leafy vegetables, legumes, lentils, onions, pistachio nuts, sprouts and ripe tomatoes.

5 Natural Sources of Choline

Quantity (mg)
Toasted wheat germ
1 cup
Boiled Brussel sprouts
1 cup
Cooked chopped broccoli
1 cup
Smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons
1 ounce

Choline Is Metabolized By Gut Bacteria

Dietary choline is metabolized by gut bacteria and then converted into TMAO by the liver. Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) is an organic compound in the class of amine oxides. It is a chemical by-product produced by specialised gut bacteria while digesting certain amino acids from protein, including choline.

Uses of Choline

Citicoline is used in treatment of cerebrovascular diseases and traumatic brain injury. Choline is used to treat neurodegenerative diseases like glaucoma and dementia.

Adequate levels of choline—an important nutrient that helps a baby’s brain and spinal cord to develop properly—are necessary to maintain normal pregnancy including neural development of the fetus and reducing the incidence of birth defects.

— Sara Berg, a staff writer for AMA’s communications site AMA Wire

Choline and Pregnancy

"Not meeting your daily needs during pregnancy could be a big public health concern since deficiency can cause neural tube defects and suboptimal brain development of the baby," says Taylor Wallace, Ph.D., a professor in the department of nutrition and food studies at George Mason University, and author of a study conducted on the subject.

For the study, research scientists observed the dietary patterns of around 25,000 people, including nearly 600 pregnant women, to see if their diets provided enough choline.

Many fell short, especially those who did not consume eggs. "People who ate eggs nearly doubled their choline intake," says Marie Caudill, Ph.D., R.D., a presidential fellow from Cornell University.

Adequate Intake

Male (mg per day)
0-6 months
7-12 months
1-3 years
4-8 years
9-13 years
14-18 years
Above 18 years
All ages
Breastfeeding mothers
All ages

There is an immediate need to increase awareness among health professionals and consumers of choline as an essential, but currently suboptimal, nutrient, and …that for the majority of the population choline consumption is far below current dietary recommendations. Increasing awareness of the pervasiveness of suboptimal choline intakes must become the focus of public health efforts in order to promote optimal health.

— Institute of Medicine

Side Effects

Choline is safe when dosage is followed. Overdose can cause side effects like fishy body odor, perspiration, gastrointestinal problems, vomiting and diarrhea. Some experts are of the opinion that increased dietary choline intake may increase the risk of colon cancer and rectum cancer. It is clot enhancing.


  • Choline is a water-soluble macronutrient.
  • Choline is produced in small quantities in the liver.
  • Choline performs many biological functions.
  • Choline is necessary for the healthy functioning of the nervous system.
  • Fatty liver is a symptom of choline deficiency.

If you have a PEMT genetic polymorphism and you are not supporting your diet with appropriate fatty acids or you’re eating fast foods and you’re destroying your cell membranes for various reasons, then that’s a problem. So supplementing with phosphatidylcholine, eating eggs, eating more healthfully, balancing your fatty acids, looking at red blood cell fatty acids, working with a good doc, and so on is really important.

— Dr. Ben Lynch


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    • srirad0675 profile image

      Srikanth R 8 months ago

      Thank you.

    • srirad0675 profile image

      Srikanth R 9 months ago

      Thanks to Google Trends. :-)

    • srirad0675 profile image

      Srikanth R 9 months ago

      Thank you.

    • simplehappylife profile image

      sannwi 9 months ago

      Very Interesting! I've never heard of Choline. I appreciate that you included the symptoms of a Choline deficiency.

      Great Article!