Choline is the precursor of one of the most important neurotransmitters: acetylcholine. In addition, thanks to some metabolic routes, choline can transform into trimethylglycine (TMG), a molecule that prevents cardiovascular and hepatic diseases. Even though it is a substance that is needed in very low doses, choline deficiency is associated to neural problems (cognitive degeneration), hence many people use it as a memory support.
What is Choline?
Choline (trimethyl-ethanolamine) is an alcohol and quaternary ammonium salt, with similar properties to vitamins.
It was discovered in 1864 by the chemist Friedrich Ludwig Adolph Strecker and two years later he was able to produce it synthetically from amino and ethanol, through methylation.
Choline is an essential nutrient that is soluble in water, similar to vitamins and is contained in many foods. Its function is similar to vitamin b12 and is a component of lecithin and the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
The body can only produce choline in small quantities.
But in order to do this, you need to have a sufficient provision of amino acids, especially lysine and methionine, of the vitamin B enzyme carriers, especially vitamin b12 and folic acid, which is quite rare.
For this reason, although the body generates choline through our diet, this never covers the amount we actually need, so it is advisable to take care of this deficiency with supplements. Choline operates similarly to a vitamin.
It is a fatty substance that forms part of all the cells in the body and is essential in maintaining our health.
It is often called a "fat burner" because it helps reduce fat and ensures that it remains in a liquid state and does not accumulate in the organs or blood vessels.
It provides essential fatty acids to the cells at the same time and plays an important role in the structure and functioning of the signals of cell membranes.
Functions of choline
The role of choline in the body is very complex, since it can be metabolised along with other compounds.
It may also be produced in the liver by the enzyme phosphatidylethanolamine.
Some examples of the function of choline in the metabolism are as follows:
It produces acetylcholine in combination with acetic acid, an important neurotransmitter
Choline is a phosphorylate or phosphocholine, a basic element of phospholipids such as phosphatidylcholine, that make up cell membranes and are essential for the transmission of signals within them.
It participates in the formation of acetylcholine receptors.
It is involved in the transport of lipids.
When it oxidises, it becomes betaine, important for the metabolism of methyl (homocysteine reduction).
It plays an important role in the metabolism of fats and other metabolic reactions and detoxification.
Properties and benefits of choline
Choline helps the proper functioning of nerve signals and memory. Acetylcholine controls moods, emotions and behaviour. Muscle stimuli transmission need acetylcholine, for which reason it is involved in vital functions such as breathing, the heartbeat, blood pressure control and metabolic processes in general.
Myelin is a substance that protects the nerves. It is important for the synthesis of myelin and, therefore, for the protection of the nervous system.
Choline is involved in the synthesis of various hormones and enzymes, melatonin for example. In addition, it intervenes in the metabolism of creatine.
It is responsible for transporting fats (triglycerides) from the liver to the areas of the body that need them. Without a sufficient amount of choline this vital process is interrupted and the liver accumulates a high fat content. Thereafter, it can no longer correctly perform the detoxification of the body and its functions become limited.
Choline reduces the symptoms of asthma.
Regarding sport and physical performance, choline improves muscle function and helps improve mental energy, focus, and concentration. It can reduce response time for the processing of movement during physical exercise.
Another of choline's properties is that it promotes the detoxification of chemical products and pollutants and helps to purge the remnants of heavy metals, as well as alcohol and drugs.
Choline helps the metabolism of fats and in carrying triglycerides and other fats to tissues. Choline prevents the degeneration of fat and reduces, along with methionine, possible liver damage.
During pregnancy there is a greater necessity for choline, since its deficiency may cause fat deposits in the liver.
It is necessary for the proper functioning of the brain. Lecithin and choline increase levels of acetylcholine in the brain, help to improve the memory and prevent the emergence of diseases such as Alzheimer's and other dementias, which occur with low levels of acetylcholine. Due to its function as a neurotransmitter, choline has a relaxant function and reduces stress.
It prevents nervous system and movement disorders caused by acetylcholine irregularities in the brain. It also prevents the occurrence of gallstones.
Choline forms part of the structure of cell walls in the whole organism and protects nerve cells, brain and bone marrow.
Others benefits of choline consist of reducing the level of bad cholesterol and triglycerides, while increasing HDL good cholesterol and avoiding deposits in the form of gallstones.
Choline decreases the risk of atherosclerosis.
Another of its beneficial effects consists of regulating blood pressure levels. In addition, Choline also strengthens the walls of the capillaries and helps with the treatment of tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
Choline deficiency. Health hazards
A deficiency of choline in the body can cause all kinds of problems for our health.
Clinical studies have shown that choline is important for the healthy development of the foetus.
Low levels of choline during pregnancy can lead to an increase in the level of homocysteine and result in premature birth, underweight babies, preeclampsia, memory and growth problems, learning disorders and nerve cell deficiencies.
One of the most serious consequences of a lack of choline in the body is the risk of developing a fatty liver, causing serious damage and increasing the risk of cancer in this organ.
Choline deficiency leads to the alteration of renal function and, consequently, high blood pressure.
One can also develop nephritis (inflammation of the kidney).
Choline deficiency also causes a decrease in the production of red blood cells, atherosclerosis, and sterility. A lack of choline produces a decrease of estrogen in women, which may precede menopause.
A clinical study on 51 participants in 2016 showed that lack of choline in the body can cause DNA damage and lymphocyte cell death. In this study it was found that people with choline deficiency underwent double the DNA damage compared to those who had normal levels.
Another clinical study in 2016 showed that choline administered orally has anti-inflammatory properties and may reduce the symptoms of allergic rhinitis
Natural sources of choline
Choline-rich foods include (concentration of choline in milligrams per 100 grams of food):
Egg yolk: 680
Beef liver: 418
Chicken liver: 290
Wheat germ: 152
Dried soybeans: 116
Other choline-rich foods are: cod, chicken, milk, soy lecithin, cauliflower, spinach, amaranth, quinoa and beans.
People have different needs in terms of the daily amount of choline consumed throughout their lives. Additionally, each individual has genetic characteristics that dictate a greater or lesser need for this nutrient.
It is very difficult to get an adequate supply uniquely and exclusively through food. For this reason, in addition to taking care with our diet, providing choline through dietary supplements is also recommended to prevent essential nutrient deficiency in the organism.
Recommended dosage of choline
The recommended daily dosage of choline is 550 milligrams for men, and 425 milligrams for women.
For choline to produce its maximum effects, taking it together with food is recommended.
During pregnancy and lactation, the need for choline rises slightly, so you can increase the dose to 550 milligrams for women who find themselves in this situation.
This dose is approximate and applies to people who are healthy. Reading the product information and taking the recommended dose is advised in all cases.
In general, the maximum dose can never exceed 3.5 grams per day.
How to take choline
Choline, usually taken along with inositol, considered a "group b pseudovitamin", is essential for physical and mental function.
The recommended daily dose of inositol is the same as for choline: approximately 500mg per day.
Inositol, is one of the main elements of the cell membrane, so it is very important in all our body's tissues. It is essential for the correct metabolism of lipids, adjusting the levels of cholesterol, and preventing the build-up of fat in the liver.
Like choline, inositol has a close relationship with brain function, being very important in the field of neurotransmitter synthesis (mainly acetylcholine and serotonin). Inositol is beneficial in helping to regulate people's moods and in providing cognitive support.
Does choline have side effects?
A high consumption of choline, above 8-20 g / day, may produce an unpleasant body odour, similar to rotten fish.
This odour disappears when the intake ceases. Also, an overdose of choline, above ten grams a day, can cause other symptoms, such as vomiting, increased salivation and hypotension, associated with dizziness or sweating.
An excess of choline, above 3 grams per day, can also cause itching, tinnitus or, in rare cases, liver damage.
People suffering from trimethylaminuria congenital metabolic disorder (fishy smell syndrome) cannot process choline properly due to a deficiency of the enzyme trimethylamine, and therefore must be more careful when taking it.
Who should take choline supplements?
People who wish to protect and take care of their nerve and cognitive functions. It is very important to take care of memory, attention and concentration. This is why its consumption is especially indicated during periods of great intellectual effort.
It is also very important that persons over the age 50 consume choline, since at that age the cognitive functions begin to deteriorate.
It is very beneficial in supporting proper fat metabolism and liver health. Therefore people with metabolic disorders, obesity, high cholesterol or liver problems such as fatty liver can benefit from a choline supplement.
It is important for people with anxiety, who feel down, or who have sleep disturbances or mild depression, etc.
Athletes and active people, since it is beneficial to the maintenance of adequate energy levels and metabolism
Where can I buy choline?
There are many online stores where you can buy choline supplements, and one of these is HSNstore.com. It has a wide range of choline products, and many of them also come with the ingredient inositol.
Choline, taken together with inositol combines to keep the nerve cells in good condition. They are necessary for the metabolism of fats (mostly in the liver) and in reducing cholesterol levels.