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Almost every discussion about nutrition mentions Protein, omega-3s, and fiber. This is for good reason as they're essential nutrients but there are other nutrients that are equally important and don't often get the spotlight that protein does.
One amazingly underappreciated one is choline.
A potential reason is that it's a fairly recent discovery, being designated an essential nutrient as recently as 1998 by the Institute of Medicine.
Because it's discussed so little, it's easy to think of choline as just some niche health product. However, it should be a part of everyone's diet.
Let's go over some what choline is in more detail, some great food sources of choline and some signs you may be deficient.
What Exactly is Choline?
Choline is a macronutrient necessary for liver function, appropriate brain development, neuron function, muscular movement, energy support, and metabolic health.
This minor (but crucial) macronutrient is involved in critical bodily activities that occur hundreds of times every day.
Because the liver can only produce modest amounts of choline, the amount the body makes on its own is insufficient. Choline must therefore be obtained through the foods and beverages we consume.
Choline is found in the form of phosphatidylcholine, a chemical that is a structural component of fat and may thus be found in a variety of foods that naturally include certain fats (we'll go over which foods are high in this nutrient in a minute).
Though it's found in fats, choline is a water-soluble nutrient. It's a nutrient related to other vitamins like folate and those from the B vitamin family. Choline, like B vitamins, is vital for maintaining energy and cognitive function and keeping the metabolism active.
The Benefits of Choline
Choline Improves Memory and Brain Function
Choline is vital for brain health in these ways because it is required for neurotransmitter activity; without it, neurotransmitters would not interact as well.
According to scientific evidence, eating choline-rich meals daily can help to prevent Alzheimer's disease and other forms of cognitive decline. This is because choline is a component and precursor of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that aids neuron communication and muscle movement and performs other essential functions.
Choline Aids in Liver Function
Another important organ that relies on choline is the liver. Specifically, choline aids in the metabolization of fat in the liver. One reason (among others) many patients get fatty liver disease, according to research, is because "they don't consume enough choline."
Choline Aids in Cell Development
Choline aids fat absorption, and those fats are then utilized to form cell membranes and structures. Our cells can't correctly hold their structure or send signals to other parts of the body without sufficient choline.
It is required for the production of DNA, which is responsible for the formation of the entire bodily structure.
Choline and folate are recognized to be essential nutrients in the methyl group processes, which the body employs to create genetic information that aids in the development of all of the body's systems.
Choline Helps With Fat Metabolism
According to essential studies, choline is necessary for fat metabolism because it breaks down fat to be used as an energy source. Choline's activity makes it helpful in preventing disorders like fatty liver and blood fat accumulation.
Choline's efficient fat metabolism has also been related to a higher level of satiety, leading to decreased calorie consumption and total weight loss.
Choline is required to activate the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which transmits chemical messages to muscles and allows them to move around the body.
Choline may also aid in the improvement of energy levels, mood, sleep cycles, and recuperation time after strenuous exercise. Choline is also involved in muscle nerve activity and may help to avoid fatigue and muscle aches and pains after exercise.
How Much Choline Do I Need?
The amount of choline you need each day gernally depends on your age and sex. Because our bodies only produce a little quantity of choline, we must obtain the remainder from supplements, vegetables, or meat/seafood.
Eggs, liver, steak, salmon, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and breast milk are natural sources of choline. In fact, due to their high choline content, eggs are commonly referred to as "brain food."
For now, most experts think that the amounts listed below, which come from the National Institute of Health, are sufficient for achieving optimal results while causing no harm:
- Birth to 6 months125 mg
- Infants 7–12 months150 mg
- Children 1–3 years200 mg
- Children 4–8 years250 mg
- Children 9–13 years375 mg
- Teen boys 14–18 years550 mg
- Teen girls 14–18 years400 mg
- Men 19+ years550 mg
- Women 19+ years425 mg
- Pregnant teens and women450 mg
- Breastfeeding teens and women550 mg
Choline Rich Foods
Vegetarian Sources of Choline
- Tofu has106 milligrams of choline from a 4 oz serving
- Cruciferous vegetables 31mg per cup
- Shitake mushrooms 116 mg per cup
- Soy 107 mg per ½ cup of roasted soybeans
- Wheat germ 153 mg of choline per 3 oz serving
- Almonds 15mg per 1 oz serving
- Beans 75 mg per cup of Lima Beans
- Red Potatoes 57mg per large potato
- Quinoa 43 mg per 8oz serving
Animal Sources of Choline
- Fish 187 mg per 3oz serving of salmon
- Cottage cheese 39 mg per cup
- Beef, especially the liver, at 355 mg per 3 oz serving
- Chicken 117 mg per breast
- Whole eggs 147 mg per 1 hard-boiled egg
- Pork Chops 90 mg per 3.5 oz serving
Symptoms and Signs of Choline Deficiency
There is some indication that many people's diets are at least somewhat deficient In some cases due to bioavailability, one may be consuming enough but absorbing enough into their body.
This is most likely due to hereditary factors that cause a higher demand for choline in some individuals.
As a result, determining an average amount is a bit tricky.
The following are some of the signs and symptoms of a choline deficiency:
- Fatigued with low energy levels
- Loss of memory
- Mental deterioration
- Difficulties with learning
- Nerve damage muscle pains
- Mood swings or disturbances
- Difficulties with learning
People who have "fatty liver," a liver ailment, are more likely to have a choline shortage and experience unfavorable effects. Fatty liver, commonly known as fatty liver disease (FLD), is a reversible disorder in which triglyceride fat builds up in the liver cells.
People who drink too much alcohol, are obese, have diabetes or insulin resistance, or have other conditions that affect fat metabolism are more likely to get it.
A lack of choline may also contribute to age-related cognitive decline, such as memory loss and Alzheimer's disease. This is because choline aids in the maintenance of neurotransmitters, and as people age, nerve signaling can deteriorate, resulting in dementia symptoms.
The most straightforward approach to guarantee you get enough choline is to eat a varied diet. Because choline is abundant in animal products, vegetarians and vegans are more likely to suffer choline deficiency.
Researchers previously believed that our bodies made enough choline on their own but that's since been proven wrong resulting in choline being added to the list of essential nutrients.
According to research, the quantity of folate you consume may influence how much choline your body makes and requires from food sources. For example, someone who consumes more folate from leafy green vegetables and certain grains will require less choline from food.
Some Great Supplements and Additives
Choline is included in soy lecithin, a frequently used dietary additive. As a result, additional choline likely gets ingested through nutritional additives.
Supplements containing lecithin are also available. On the other hand, Lecithin has just 10–20 percent phosphatidylcholine.
Phosphatidylcholine can also be taken as a powder supplement or a pill form, according to a study that quantified choline and its metabolites in tissues and meals using liquid chromatography. However, according to a study, choline makes up just about 13% of the weight of phosphatidylcholine.
Choline is an essential nutrient that is necessary for good health.
It may be important for brain health, heart health, liver function, and pregnancy.
Even though true deficiency is uncommon, many people in Western countries aren't getting the recommended or optimal amount.
If you think you're not getting enough, talk to your doctor to see if consuming more choline-rich foods like salmon, eggs, broccoli, and cauliflower are right for you to boost your intake.
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