The benefits of choline play a crucial role in various bodily functions. It is an essential nutrient. Although our body makes choline, some people are deficient due to a lack of choline in their diet, resulting in liver, muscle, and neurological issues.
This article will help you to discover all the choline benefits, what the nutrient is about, the best sources and frequently asked questions.
- Choline supports fertility, pregnancy, lactation, brain, heart, liver, and gut health.
- Men should get 550 and women 425 mg of choline daily.
- Liver, red meat, eggs, and salmon are high in choline.
- Only individuals with certain conditions should supplement.
Choline is an essential nutrient often grouped with water-soluble B vitamins1 due to their similarities. Like B vitamins, choline is a critical component of cell membranes and is crucial for vital bodily functions.
Although naturally produced by the liver2, the production does not meet the body’s needs, necessitating dietary intake or supplementation.
Choline is a derivative of the amino acid serine but not a protein or amino acid.
Liver, red meat, and egg yolks are the richest sources of choline.
- Beef liver – 356 mg per serving
- Chicken liver – 219 mg per serving
- Salmon – 187 mg per serving
- Egg – 147 mg per serving
- Chicken breast – 72 mg per serving
- Soybeans – 107 mg per serving
- Cod – 71 mg per serving
- Potatoes – 57 mg per serving
- Wheat germ – 51 mg per serving
- Kidney beans – 45 mg per serving
- Tilapia – 42.5 mg per serving
- Milk – 43 mg per serving
- Yogurt – 38 mg per serving
- Broccoli – 31 mg per serving
- Shitake mushrooms – 27 mg per serving
How Much Choline Per Day?
Adult men should aim for 550 mg/day, whereas adult women should target 425 mg/day.3
The recommended daily choline intake varies based on age, gender, and life stage.
Higher doses are advised due to increased demands, such as pregnancy and lactation.
Here’s a summary of how much choline you should take based on your age by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine:
|Birth to 6 months||125 mg/day|
|7–12 months||150 mg/day|
|1–3 years||200 mg/day|
|4–8 years||250 mg/day|
|9–13 years||375 mg/day|
|14–18 years||550 mg/day||400 mg/day||450 mg/day||550 mg/day|
|19+ years||550 mg/day||425 mg/day||450 mg/day||550 mg/day|
What Is Choline Deficiency?
Choline deficiency is when you are not getting enough choline for a prolonged period. Some people may manifest symptoms early on, while others at a later stage.
Some groups of people, including men and postmenopausal women, show symptoms more frequently than premenopausal women and other age groups2.
Who Needs Choline Supplements?
Pregnant and lactating women, athletes, individuals with liver conditions, and those with specific genetic conditions affecting choline metabolism may benefit from choline supplementation. 7
However, consulting a healthcare professional before initiating any supplementation regimen is crucial.
What Are the Benefits of Choline?
Here are seven evidence-based health benefits of choline.
1. Supports Brain Health
Choline is a fundamental component of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in cognitive functions, including memory, learning, and muscle control.
Adequate choline intake is essential for synthesizing and releasing acetylcholine and dopamine8.
Research has shown that choline supplementation can enhance cognitive performance, particularly in tasks related to memory and attention, especially in the first 1000 days of life9.
Moreover, choline may protect against age-related cognitive decline, potentially reducing the risk of conditions like Alzheimer’s disease10.
2. Supports Heart Health
Choline is involved in the metabolism of homocysteine11, an amino acid associated with increased cardiovascular risk when present at elevated levels.
It helps convert homocysteine into a non-toxic substance, methionine12, used for various essential processes in the body.
Choline also helps in regulating blood pressure levels.
In a study13, choline intake had an inverse association with hypertension in both sexes. However, very high choline levels may also have a negative effect14 on your cardiovascular health, so keeping things in moderation is always the key.
3. Boosts Liver Health
Choline is a vital component of phosphatidylcholine15, a phospholipid critical for the structural integrity of cell membranes, especially in the liver. Additionally, choline supports the transport and metabolism of fats in the liver, preventing the accumulation of triglycerides and the development of fatty liver disease16.
In cases of choline deficiency, fat can build up in the liver, potentially leading to more severe liver conditions.
4. Improves Fertility
Although this benefit is due to more clinical studies, several animal studies support the claims.
5. Supports Healthy Pregnancy and Lactation
Choline’s importance during pregnancy extends beyond neural development. Studies19 have suggested maternal choline intake can impact the child’s cognitive function and memory performance, especially in the first two years9.
Research20 on humans and animals has demonstrated that adding more choline to the mother’s diet enhances many pregnancy outcomes and guards against metabolic and neurological damage.
A supporting study suggests21 that mothers with the lowest blood choline levels had a 2.4-fold increased risk of neural tube abnormalities compared to those with normal blood choline levels. Similarly, those with the highest blood choline levels show the lowest risk.
Choline is transferred from mother to infant through breast milk22. Adequate choline intake by lactating mothers ensures that their infants receive this essential nutrient, supporting optimal cognitive development and overall health.
6. Helps Prevent Cancer
Choline helps in DNA synthesis and repair and helps regulate cell growth and division. However, there are also some studies suggesting taking high levels of choline is detrimental among patients with prostate cancer25.
These results warrant further investigation into choline’s potential as a preventive measure against cancer.
7. Boosts Gut Health
Few people know that choline offers various benefits for gut health.
Firstly, choline promotes beneficial intestinal bacteria26, which are essential for digestion and the processing of nutrients.
Hence, adequate choline levels can help prevent intestinal problems such as leaky gut.
Furthermore, it acts as a precursor to the chemical messenger acetylcholine, which is the primary neurotransmitter of the parasympathetic nervous system.
When acetylcholine binds to specific receptors throughout the body, it helps the vagus nerve perform digestion, secretion, and gut motility functions29.
Moreover, high-choline foods are associated with increased vagal tone30, essential for proper digestion.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the symptoms of low choline?
Symptoms of choline deficiency may include fatigue, cognitive decline, muscle weakness, and liver dysfunction.
Can you take choline every day?
Yes, regular choline intake is essential for maintaining optimal health. However, it is crucial to stay within the recommended daily intake levels and take choline supplements only when a physician recommends.
Who should avoid choline?
While choline is generally considered safe, individuals with certain medical conditions such as trimethylaminuria (fish odor syndrome) or those with bipolar disorder31 should consult a healthcare professional before increasing choline intake.
What are the negative side effects of choline?
Excessive choline intake may lead to symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, sweating, salivation, low blood pressure, and liver toxicity. It is vital to adhere to recommended dosage guidelines.
1Davoudi-Monfared, E. (2023). Choline. Encyclopedia of Toxicology (Fourth Edition), 27-30. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-824315-2.00854-X
2Office of Dietary Supplements (2018) Dietary supplement fact sheet: choline. Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Choline-HealthProfessional/ (Accessed: 10 November 2023)
3Patterson, K.K., Bhagwat, S.A., Williams, J., Howe, J.C., Holden, J.M. 2007. USDA database for the choline content of common foods, release two. NDL Home Page. Available: http://www.ars.usda.gov/nutrientdata (Accessed: 10 November 2023)
4Buchman, A. L., Dubin, M. D., Moukarzel, A. A., Jenden, D. J., Roch, M., Rice, K. M., Gornbein, J., & Ament, M. E. (1995). Choline deficiency: A cause of hepatic steatosis during parenteral nutrition that can be reversed with intravenous choline supplementation. Hepatology, 22(5), 1399-1403. https://doi.org/10.1016/0270-9139(95)90143-4
5Fischer, L. M., Kwock, L., Stewart, P. W., Lu, S., Stabler, S. P., Allen, R. H., & Zeisel, S. H. (2007). Sex and menopausal status influence human dietary requirements for the nutrient choline. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 85(5), 1275. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/85.5.1275
6Poly, C., Massaro, J. M., Seshadri, S., Wolf, P. A., Cho, E., Krall, E., Jacques, P. F., & Au, R. (2011). The relation of dietary choline to cognitive performance and white-matter hyperintensity in the Framingham Offspring Cohort. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 94(6), 1584-1591. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.110.008938
7Office of Dietary Supplements (2018) Dietary supplement fact sheet: choline. Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Choline-Consumer/ (Accessed: 10 November 2023)
8Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Nutrition, Trauma, and the Brain; Erdman J, Oria M, Pillsbury L, editors. Nutrition and Traumatic Brain Injury: Improving Acute and Subacute Health Outcomes in Military Personnel. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2011. 9, Choline. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK209327/
9Derbyshire, E., & Obeid, R. (2020). Choline, Neurological Development and Brain Function: A Systematic Review Focusing on the First 1000 Days. Nutrients, 12(6). https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12061731
10Aguree, S., Zolnoori, M., Atwood, T. P., & Owora, A. (2023). Association between choline supplementation and Alzheimer’s disease risk: A systematic review protocol. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 15. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2023.1242853
11Olthof, Margreet & Brink, Elizabeth & Katan, Martijn & Verhoef, Petra. (2005). Choline supplemented as phosphatidylcholine decreases fasting and postmethionine-loading plasma homocysteine concentrations in healthy men. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 82. 111-7. 10.1093/ajcn.82.1.111.
12Miller A. L. (2003). The methionine-homocysteine cycle and its effects on cognitive diseases. Alternative medicine review : a journal of clinical therapeutic, 8(1), 7–19.
13Taesuwan, S., Vermeylen, F., Caudill, M. A., & Cassano, P. A. (2019). Relation of choline intake with blood pressure in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2007-2010. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 109(3), 648–655. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqy330
14Wilson Tang, W. H., Wang, Z., Levison, B. S., Koeth, R. A., Britt, E. B., Fu, X., Wu, Y., & Hazen, S. L. (2013). Intestinal Microbial Metabolism of Phosphatidylcholine and Cardiovascular Risk. The New England Journal of Medicine, 368(17), 1575. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa1109400
15Li, Z., & Vance, D. E. (2008). Phosphatidylcholine and choline homeostasis. Journal of lipid research, 49(6), 1187–1194. https://doi.org/10.1194/jlr.R700019-JLR200
16Mehedint, M. G., & Zeisel, S. H. (2013). Choline’s role in maintaining liver function: New evidence for epigenetic mechanisms. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 16(3), 339. https://doi.org/10.1097/MCO.0b013e3283600d46
17Zhan, X., Fletcher, L., Dingle, S., Baracuhy, E., Wang, B., Huber, L. A., & Li, J. (2021). Choline supplementation influences ovarian follicular development. Frontiers in bioscience (Landmark edition), 26(12), 1525–1536. https://doi.org/10.52586/5046
18Lazaros, L., Xita, N., Hatzi, E., Kaponis, A., Makrydimas, G., Takenaka, A., Sofikitis, N., Stefos, T., Zikopoulos, K., & Georgiou, I. (2012). Phosphatidylethanolamine N-methyltransferase and choline dehydrogenase gene polymorphisms are associated with human sperm concentration. Asian Journal of Andrology, 14(5), 778-783. https://doi.org/10.1038/aja.2011.125
19Obeid, R., Derbyshire, E., & Schön, C. (2022). Association between Maternal Choline, Fetal Brain Development, and Child Neurocognition: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Human Studies. Advances in Nutrition, 13(6), 2445-2457. https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmac082
20Korsmo, H. W., Jiang, X., & Caudill, M. A. (2019). Choline: Exploring the Growing Science on Its Benefits for Moms and Babies. Nutrients, 11(8). https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11081823
21Shaw, G. M., Finnell, R. H., Blom, H. J., Carmichael, S. L., Vollset, S. E., Yang, W., & Ueland, P. M. (2009). Choline and risk of neural tube defects in a folate-fortified population. Epidemiology (Cambridge, Mass.), 20(5), 714–719. https://doi.org/10.1097/EDE.0b013e3181ac9fe7
22Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Breastfeeding. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/diet-and-micronutrients/maternal-diet.html. (Accessed: 10 November 2023)
23Xu, X., Gammon, M. D., Zeisel, S. H., Bradshaw, P. T., Wetmur, J. G., Teitelbaum, S. L., Neugut, A. I., Santella, R. M., & Chen, J. (2009). High intakes of choline and betaine reduce breast cancer mortality in a population-based study. The FASEB Journal, 23(11), 4022-4028. https://doi.org/10.1096/fj.09-136507
24Lu, S., Fang, J., Pan, Z., Zhong, X., Zheng, C., Chen, M., & Zhang, X. (2015). Choline and Betaine Intake and Colorectal Cancer Risk in Chinese Population: A Case-Control Study. PLOS ONE, 10(3), e0118661. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0118661
25Awwad, H. M., Geisel, J., & Obeid, R. (2012). The role of choline in prostate cancer. Clinical Biochemistry, 45(18), 1548-1553. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clinbiochem.2012.08.012
26Tindall, A. M., Petersen, K. S., & Kris-Etherton, P. M. (2018). Dietary Patterns Affect the Gut Microbiome—The Link to Risk of Cardiometabolic Diseases. The Journal of Nutrition, 148(9), 1402-1407. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxy141
27Treede, I., Braun, A., Sparla, R., Kühnel, M., Giese, T., Turner, J. R., Anes, E., Kulaksiz, H., Füllekrug, J., Stremmel, W., Griffiths, G., & Ehehalt, R. (2007). Anti-inflammatory Effects of Phosphatidylcholine. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 282(37), 27155-27164. https://doi.org/10.1074/jbc.M704408200
28Wallace, T. C., Blusztajn, J. K., Caudill, M. A., Klatt, K. C., Natker, E., Zeisel, S. H., & Zelman, K. M. (2018). Choline: The Underconsumed and Underappreciated Essential Nutrient. Nutrition Today, 53(6), 240-253. https://doi.org/10.1097/NT.0000000000000302
29Jacobson, A., Yang, D., Vella, M., & Chiu, I. M. (2021). The intestinal neuro-immune axis: Crosstalk between neurons, immune cells, and microbes. Mucosal Immunology, 14(3), 555-565. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41385-020-00368-1
30Young, H. A., & Benton, D. (2018). Heart-rate variability: A biomarker to study the influence of nutrition on physiological and psychological health? Behavioural Pharmacology, 29(2-), 140-151. https://doi.org/10.1097/FBP.0000000000000383
31Wilson Tang, W. H., Wang, Z., Levison, B. S., Koeth, R. A., Britt, E. B., Fu, X., Wu, Y., & Hazen, S. L. (2013). Intestinal Microbial Metabolism of Phosphatidylcholine and Cardiovascular Risk. The New England Journal of Medicine, 368(17), 1575. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa1109400
Mag. Stephan Lederer, MSc. is an author and blogger from Austria who writes in-depth content about health and nutrition. His book series on Interval Fasting landed #1 on the bestseller list in the German Amazon marketplace in 15 categories.
Stephan is a true man of science, having earned multiple diplomas and master's degrees in various fields. He has made it his mission to bridge the gap between conventional wisdom and scientific knowledge. He precisely reviews the content and sources of this blog for currency and accuracy.
Click on the links above to visit his author and about me pages.