Choline — The Newest Essential Nutrient on the Block
If new nutrients get you excited, then we’ve got news for you, because there's a new nutrient on the block!
Well, sort of. It isn't exactly new, but it is the newest required dietary nutrient established by the FDA and is a recent addition to most food nutrition labels and dietary supplement labels.
We’re talking about choline, and while it has been around as long as all of the other nutrients you know and love, it has managed to slip out of the spotlight until just recently.
What is choline and why are we excited about it?
What is Choline?
Choline is an essential nutrient found in all living cells that is closely related to the B vitamin family. Although the body can produce small amounts of it, we need to include choline in our diet or through supplementation to meet our body’s needs.
The majority of choline in the body is a component of other compounds, such as the neurotransmitter acetylcholine — a chemical used in the transmission of brain impulses between nerves, muscles, and organs.
It’s also a constituent of phosphatidylcholine — a type of phospholipid. In cell membranes, phospholipids help protect the cell and maintain its shape.
How Much Choline Do You Need?
The Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for choline is 425 mg for women and children over age four, 550 mg for men, 450 mg for pregnant women, and 550 mg for lactating women.
If you’re wondering if you’re meeting those needs, the answer is actually, probably not. It’s estimated that 90% of Americans don’t meet the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for choline.
Vegetarians and vegans have a particularly challenging time getting enough of it, since most choline-dense foods come from animal sources. Choline deficiency is particularly troubling for pregnant women who need to consume higher amounts of it because of its importance for a baby’s healthy brain development.
Choline supports health in numerous important ways including:
- Critical for healthy liver function
- Essential for healthy brain and nerve function
- Improves muscle movement and health
- Important for healthy prenatal brain development
- Supports healthy cellular metabolism
- Fosters healthy energy levels
- Facilitates healthy bile and fat metabolism
Foods High in Choline
Many foods are natural sources of choline, but animal products are particularly rich in the nutrient. Cruciferous vegetables, legumes, and nuts are also good sources but are not as choline dense (approximately 1/3 of the richest animal sources).
Eggs are an especially easy and inexpensive way to incorporate choline into your diet. One egg can provide one-quarter to one-third of your daily intake requirement. Just note that the vast majority of choline is located in the egg yolk, so eating just the egg whites won’t give you much.
Some good sources of choline include:
- Meat like chicken, beef & turkey
- Seafood such as shrimp, scallops, cod, tuna & salmon
- Egg yolks
- Cruciferous vegetables like collard greens, Brussels sprouts, broccoli & cauliflower
- Shiitake & cremini mushrooms
- Wheat bran, wheat germ & oat bran
Types of Choline Supplements
Of course, if consuming adequate levels of choline through diet isn’t feasible, supplementation is a good option. In fact, there is little risk in consuming too much choline. Adverse effects were only observed at levels seven times the RDI (about 3,500mg/day). So, a combination of choline-rich foods and supplementation is a healthy choice.
There are a few types of choline supplements that you can choose from. Choline bitartrate and choline citrate are basic synthetic isolates that are pretty inexpensive. Just be aware that these cheaper alternatives often contain artificial additives, preservatives, or chemical excipients such as magnesium stearate.
Some people who want a more natural source of choline take phosphatidylcholine supplements. Phosphatidylcholine is found in soy lecithin, sunflower lecithin, and egg lecithin. However, the percentage of actual choline in these products is quite low, since choline only makes up about 13% of phosphatidylcholine. So, in order to get your recommended daily requirement, you’d have to take a lot of phosphatidylcholine.
Choline Complex™ is another natural, vegan alternative to the synthetic isolates that offers 50% of the Reference Dietary Intake (RDI) for choline per tablet. It’s made using a fermentation process which converts choline into a food-form matrix, bound to important cofactors and nutrients found naturally in the diet that serve as chaperones to deliver the choline to where it’s needed in the body. This fermented choline is then blended with choline-rich cruciferous ingredients for a nature-wise approach. Plus, Choline Complex is made without any artificial fillers or chemical solvents whatsoever.
A Quick History
In 1849, a German chemist named Adolph Strecker was the first person to isolate choline from pig bile. He later dubbed it choline from the Greek word for bile — “chole.”
It wasn’t until 1991 that Steven Zeisel, a doctor and professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, established the importance of choline as an essential nutrient for human health. He did this by conducting a study where men who were fed diets low in choline developed fat accumulation in the liver (known as fatty liver) that reversed when choline was put back into their diets. Finally, in 1998 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recognized it as an essential nutrient.
Why We’re Excited About It
With a long list of health benefits, we’re glad choline is finally getting some well-deserved recognition. And because our passion is bringing you the absolute best of what nature has to offer, we’re excited to share Choline Complex with you.