Choline

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Choline is an essential nutrient that is made naturally in the body as well as eaten in the diet. The largest source of choline in the diet is egg yolk. Choline may also be found in high amounts in other foods, including liver, peanuts, fish, milk, soybeans, and other beans. Other sources include meat, chicken, and many vegetables.
Pure choline is rarely used because of its fishy odor side effect. Choline-containing fatty substances are used in pill or powder form. However, these may cause stomach discomfort. Choline chloride, which comes as a liquid, is sometimes preferred, as it causes less stomach discomfort.
Choline is particularly important for fetuses during pregnancy. In addition, choline may help prevent memory loss associated with aging, protect against liver damage, help lower cholesterol, protect against cancer, or relax muscles.
Limited clinical research has examined the effects of choline supplementation on brain injury, bronchitis, memory impairment, and tardive dyskinesia. However, more research is needed before conclusions can be made.
In 1998, the National Academy of Sciences issued recommended dietary intakes (RDI) for choline, but many American may not be meeting these guidelines. Choline has been discussed in various reviews, including some that describe the importance of choline as a dietary supplement.

Related Terms

Beta-hydroxyethyl trimethylammonium hydroxide, CDP-choline, choline bitartrate, choline chloride, choline citrate, citicholine, citicoline, cytidine 5-diphosphocholine (CDP-choline), intrachol, lecithin, lipotropic factor, PhosChol®, phosphatidylcholine, TRI, tricholine citrate (TRI), trimethyl-beta-hydroxyethylammonium, trimethylethanolamine.
Note: Choline should not be confused with choline salicylate, choline magnesium trisalicylate, choline theophyllinate, or succinylcholine. Citicoline is covered in a separate Natural Standard monograph.

evidence table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
 
Nutritional supplement (infant formula) (Grade: A)
Choline is a B-vitamin needed by the body. Reports state that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that infant formulas from a source other than cow's milk be supplemented with choline.
Asthma (Grade: B)
Choline may help treat asthma when taken by mouth. Choline supplements may decrease the severity and length of asthma symptoms. The need to use other asthma drugs may be reduced. There is some evidence that higher daily doses might be more effective than lower doses daily. Further research is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Alzheimer's disease (Grade: C)
Limited evidence suggests that choline supplementation does not affect symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. More well-designed trials are needed before a conclusion can be made.
Bipolar disorder (mental disorder) (Grade: C)
Limited evidence suggests that supplementation with choline may benefit patients with rapidly cycling bipolar disorder. More well-designed trials are needed before a conclusion can be made.
Brain injuries (Grade: C)
Limited research indicates that early treatment with choline may be safe. When taken in combination with other treatments, choline may benefit patients with brain injuries. Additional research is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Bronchitis (airway inflammation) (Grade: C)
According to limited research, supplementation with choline may benefit patients with airway inflammation caused by dust. More well-designed trials are needed before a conclusion can be made.
Cerebellar ataxia (movement disorder) (Grade: C)
Cerebellar ataxic disorders are movement disorders caused by damage to a certain part of the brain. According to limited research, choline may benefit patients with ataxic disorders. More well-designed trials are needed before a conclusion can be made.
Hay fever (Grade: C)
When taken by mouth, choline may relieve symptoms of hay fever. Further research is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Heart disease (Grade: C)
According to limited research, choline supplementation may benefit patients with coronary thrombosis (a type of heart disease) and myocardial infarction (heart attack). Better studies are needed before a conclusion can be made.
Liver dysfunction (Grade: C)
Studies have linked low levels of choline in the body with an increased risk of liver dysfunction, liver cancer, and certain liver disease. Choline has been injected into the vein to treat TPN-associated liver steatosis (fat deposits in the liver) and other liver dysfunction. Research has also studied the effects of choline on symptoms of hepatitis. However, more studies are needed before a conclusion can be made.
Memory (Grade: C)
According to limited research, choline may improve memory loss. However, more studies are needed before a conclusion can be made.
Schizophrenia (mental disorder) (Grade: C)
Limited research has studied the effects of choline in patients with schizophrenia. Choline may increase depression in schizophrenic patients. More studies are needed before a conclusion can be made.
Tardive dyskinesia (movement disorder) (Grade: C)
Tardive dyskinesia, a condition in which uncontrolled movements occur, may be caused by certain psychiatric drugs. Limited research has studied the effects of choline for treating symptoms of this movement disorder. More studies are needed before a conclusion can be made.
Physical endurance (Grade: D)
According to limited research, the effect of choline on improving physical performance or delaying tiredness after exercise is lacking. More studies are needed before a conclusion can be made.