Choline was declared an essential nutrient by the Institute of Medicine in 1998. Essential nutrients are compounds that the body cannot produce or produces in insufficient amounts and need to be supplemented through diet.
Importance of Choline
Choline is required for several important functions in the body, including the regulation of the muscular system, nervous system, and liver function. It also helps maintain an active metabolism.
Choline is a part of a type of fat called phospholipids, which are essential to protect the structural integrity of the cell membranes. It produces compounds that aid the transportation of lipids, thereby preventing their accumulation in the liver.
Choline is also needed to produce acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters help transmit signals from the brain to the target cells.
RDA of Choline
Small amounts of choline are produced in the liver, but this is not enough to meet daily requirements. This essential nutrient needs to be supplemented through diet. The requirements vary from person to person based on their age, genetic makeup, and various other factors.
The Institute of Medicine recommends a daily intake of 550 milligrams and 425 milligrams of choline for adult men and women, respectively.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women are recommended to increase their daily intake to 450 milligrams and 550 milligrams, respectively.
Choline deficiency is rare, but certain individuals are at a higher risk. According to a 2018 study, men are at a higher risk for choline deficiency than women!
However, post-menopausal women are at a higher risk, followed by pregnant women. Higher choline intake can help prevent birth anomalies like neural tube defects.
Other at-risk groups for choline deficiency include:
- Endurance athletes.
- People who consume large amounts of alcohol regularly.
- People with certain genetic types that prevent absorption of choline.
Dietary Sources of Choline
A choline-rich diet is very effective for preventing choline deficiency. Eggs, organ meat such as chicken liver, salmon, and cod are good sources of choline.
Plant-based sources include vegetables like broccoli, and cauliflower, fruits like apples and tangerines, and certain vegetable-based oils like soybean oil. Soy lecithin is a food additive that contains about 3-4% of choline content.
Image: Dietary sources of choline
*DV - Daily Value
Source: National Institutes of Health
Genetics of Choline Deficiency
Certain genes also influence your choline requirements.
The PEMT gene is one such example. This gene contains instructions for making an enzyme that is involved in the production of choline.
Variants or changes in this gene affect the levels of choline in the body.
In case you are at risk for choline deficiency, talk to your doctor. You might need to take choline supplements apart from eating a diet rich in choline.
Getting a Genetic Test
A genetic test can help find out if you have any genetic variations that affect your choline levels.
Most genetic tests provide your DNA information in the form of a text file known as the raw DNA data. This data may seem like Greek and Latin to you.
We, at Xcode Life, can help you interpret this data. All you have to do is upload your raw data and order a nutrition report. Xcode Life then analyzes your raw data in detail to provide you with comprehensive nutrition analysis, including information on your choline levels.