Serves many functions in your body

Choline plays an important part in many processes in your body, including:

  • Cell structure: It is needed to make fats that support the structural integrity of cell membranes (3Trusted Source).
  • Cell messaging: It is involved in the production of compounds that act as cell messengers.
  • Fat transport and metabolism: It is essential for making a substance required for removing cholesterol from your liver. Inadequate choline may result in fat and cholesterol buildup in your liver.
  • DNA synthesis: Choline and other vitamins, such as B12 and Folate, help with a process that’s important for DNA synthesis.
  • A healthy nervous system: This nutrient is required to make acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter. It’s involved in memory, muscle movement, regulating heartbeat and other basic functions.

SUMMARYCholine is involved in many different processes, such as cell structure and messaging, fat transport and metabolism, DNA synthesis and nervous system maintenance

How much do you need?

Due to a lack of available evidence, a Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for choline has not been determined.

However, the Institute of Medicine has set a value for adequate intake (AI) (6).

This value is intended to be sufficient for most healthy people, helping them avoid negative consequences of deficiency, such as Liver damage

Nevertheless, requirements differ according to genetic makeup and gender

In addition, determining choline intake is difficult because its presence in various foods is relatively unknown.

Here are the recommended AI values of choline for different age groups

  • 0–6 months: 125 mg per day
  • 7–12 months: 150 mg per day
  • 1–3 years: 200 mg per day
  • 4–8 years: 250 mg per day
  • 9–13 years: 375 mg per day
  • 14–19 years: 400 mg per day for women and 550 mg per day for men
  • Adult women: 425 mg per day
  • Adult men: 550 mg per day
  • Breastfeeding women: 550 mg per day
  • Pregnant women: 930 mg per day

It is important to note that choline needs may depend on the individual. Many people do fine with less choline, while others need more

 

SUMMARY

The adequate intake of choline is 425 mg per day for women and 550 mg per day for men. However, requirements may vary depending on the individual.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that choline intake is associated with improvements in brain function.

Memory and brain function

Large observational studies link choline intake and blood levels to improved brain function, including better memory and processing

Supplementing with 1,000 mg per day led to improved short- and long-term verbal memory in adults aged 50–85 who had poor memory.

In a 6-month study, giving phosphatidylcholine to people with early Alzheimer’s disease modestly improved memory in one small subgroup .

However, other studies on healthy people and those with dementia found no effects on memory

Brain development

Several animal studies suggest that taking choline supplements during pregnancy may improve fetal brain development

However, there are only a few studies on this in humans.

One observational study of 1,210 pregnant women found that choline intake had no links to mental performance in their children at 3 years of age.

Nevertheless, the same study determined that a higher intake during the second trimester was associated with better visual memory scores in the same children at age 7

In another study, 99 pregnant women took 750 mg of choline per day from 18 weeks of pregnancy to three months after pregnancy. They experienced no benefits for brain function or memory

Mental health

Some evidence suggests choline may play a role in the development and treatment of certain mental health disorders.

One large observational study linked lower blood levels to a higher risk of anxiety — but not depression

These levels are also used as an indicator for certain mood disorders, and choline supplements are sometimes used to treat bipolar disorder

One study found that choline therapy improved symptoms of mania in individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder

However, there are currently not many studies available on this.

SUMMARYCholine may boost memory function, improve brain development and treat anxiety and other mental disorders. However, the evidence is mixed.

Other health benefits

Choline is associated with the development and treatment of certain diseases.

However, for most of these, the relationship is not clear and research is ongoing (50Trusted Source).

Liver disease

Although choline deficiency results in liver disease, it’s unclear whether intakes below the recommended levels increase your risk of liver disease.

A study in more than 56,000 people found that normal-weight women with the highest intakes had a 28% lower risk of liver disease, compared to those with the lowest intakes

The study showed no association with liver disease in men or overweight women

Another study in 664 people with non-alcoholic liver disease found that lower intakes were associated with greater disease severity

SUMMARYLimited evidence suggests that choline may reduce the risk of neural tube defects in infants, as well as liver disease. That said, choline’s impact on cancer is unknown. More studies are needed.

Too much can be harmful

Consuming too much choline has been associated with unpleasant and potentially harmful side effects.

The daily upper limit for adults is 3,500 mg per day. This is the highest level of intake that is unlikely to cause harm.

It is very unlikely that someone could ingest this amount from food alone. It would be almost impossible to reach this level without taking supplements in large doses.

SUMMARYConsuming too much choline has been linked to unpleasant and potentially harmful side effects. However, it’s unlikely that you can ingest such levels from food alone.

The bottom line

Choline is an essential nutrient that is required for optimal health.

It may play a key role in healthy brain function, heart health, liver function and pregnancy.

Although actual deficiency is rare, many people in Western countries are not meeting the recommended intake.

To up your intake, consider eating more choline-rich foods, such as salmon, eggs, broccoli and cauliflower.