What is Choline?

Choline is an essential nutrient, meaning that it is required for normal bodily function and basic human health. It is not a vitamin or a mineral, but an organic water-soluble compound, often grouped with a vitamin B complex. The liver produces a small amount of choline; however, the usual daily intake must be absorbed through a good diet, or through supplementation.

Choline plays an important role in many processes within the body including:

  • It is needed to produce fats that support the structural integrity of cell membranes
  • It is involved in the production of different compounds that act as cell messengers to communicate with other parts of the body
  • It is essential for making a substance required for removing cholesterol from the liver. If there is not enough choline within the body, it may result in fat or cholesterol build up within the liver.
  • It pairs with other vitamins such as B12 or folate to help with DNA synthesis
  • Shown to improve memory and cognitive function in people of all ages.

One of the main functions of choline is the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is vital to memory and muscle control. It also helps brain cells to build their membranes and keep them strong. Strong, well-maintained membranes around neurons ensure the electrical signals in the brain perform at their best capacity.

Choline helps the body metabolise fats and helps to protect the liver from accumulating an unhealthy amount of lipids. It has an anti-inflammatory effect and can help to reduce homocysteine levels in the body.

Where is choline found?

Many foods contain choline within their nutritional profile. The main sources are typically animal sourced; meat, poultry, fish and dairy products in particular.

Is a choline deficiency harmful?

Having a choline deficiency can cause harm, particularly for the liver.

Choline is especially important during pregnancy, as a low intake can raise the risk of neural tube defects in growing foetus’.